Just as the AICPA has enacted the WebTrust seal to demonstrate to the public that financial transactions over the Internet are secure, online shopping sites also are adopting various "seals of approval" for the sake of the public.
A Harris poll found that less than 20 percent of online shoppers purchased goods or services over the Internet because they didn't want their credit cards exposed to unknown parties. To develop a sense of security, companies are turning to several services that offer seals, including Public Eye, Bizrate.com and the Better Business Bureau's BBBOnline Reliability program.
Clicking on the Public Eye, which has been adopted by approximately 7,500 small businesses, brings up a rating summary of nine criteria and a "thumbs-up" graphic. Bizrate.com, on the other hand, only has signed up about 200 retailers and relies totally on customer feedback for its reports.
The more high-profile BBB site offers quite a bit more information, such as an operating history, a complaint record and other enhancements. The Public Eye and Bizrate sites are free to businesses, while the BBB site charges a licensing fee to its 2,700 customers.