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10/3/2011
02:10 PM
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Google Launches Trusted Stores Program

Google aims to shine a spotlight on high-quality online stores to help shoppers find ones that offer compelling shopping experiences.

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To allay doubts about the legitimacy of the e-commerce sites, Google has announced a new program to highlight exemplary online merchants.

Google Trusted Stores aspires to help shoppers recognize online stores that offer compelling shopping experiences. The program is likely to be less contentious than Google's attempt to promote trust among members of its Google+ social network by requiring people to use their real names, though it may make competitors fret about the inexorable spread of Google branding onto third-party websites.

Google has begun admitting merchants into the program, which will require participating sites to share shipping and customer service data with Google and to meet Google's shipping and customer service standards.

Merchants that meet Google's standards will be allowed to display a badge on their websites that serves as a trust mark and attests to their ability to serve customers.

In order to continue displaying the badge, merchants must ship a high percentage of orders within the delay period specified at purchase and must maintain a low average for shipping time. Google has not disclosed specific threshold numbers for the program.

[ Curious about Google+? Find out more in 10 Essential Google+ Tips. ]

Shoppers at Google Trusted Stores will have the option of free purchase protection. Google, however, insists that this protection does not constitute a product warranty or endorsement and does not represent a form of insurance--a disclaimer probably designed to avoid regulation under consumer protection laws.

The purchase protection program allows customers to seek help from Google if a dispute arises. Google is offering up to $1,000 lifetime purchase protection for eligible purchases. The company describes its dispute resolution process on its website.

Merchants participating in the Google Trusted Stores pilot program include O.co, Wayfair, BabyAge.com, and Beach Audio. Google says that program badges may appear intermittently on these sites in order to test whether the program promotes shopping, as intended.

Google expects to admit more merchants into the program at a later date. Those interested can sign up online.

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