Three international business organisations today announced a joint initiative to produce a single international code of conduct for websites designed to assuage consumer misgivings about buying via the internet.

America’s BBBOnLine (the web division of the Better Business Bureau) and two European counterparts – Eurochambres (representing European chambers of commerce) and FEDMA (representing direct marketers) – said they would create a unified, voluntary standard for e-commerce as well as a scheme for settling disputes.

Dotcoms signing up to the scheme would be obliged to comply with standards of consumer privacy, reliability, truthful advertising and customer service. In return, they would receive a ‘trustmark’ to be displayed on their sites.

BBBOnLine’s chief operating officer Charles Underhill explained that the purpose of the venture is to provide internet users around the world with a means of recognising a reputable etailer. “The whole idea of this is we’re a North American organisation, and there are two organisations in Europe that have a breadth and reach we do not,” he continued. Although there are minor differences between the three bodies’ codes of conduct, the final version is not expected to differ greatly from BBBOnLine’s existing scheme.

Underhill added that a disputes arbitration framework could help resolve problems of applying national laws to the globality of the web. “We all know that these things will eventually get hammered out … but the internet has moved so fast and technology has changed so much that twenty years from now we could have perfect laws and regulations and no one having confidence in the system.”

BBBOnLine’s existing scheme has already enrolled 9,900 businesses, far more than the 1,900 websites participating in the privacy-oriented online trustmark program, TRUSTe.

News source: New York Times