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10/17/2005
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Online Consumers More Guarded In U.S. Than In Europe

Market confidence was higher in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom than in the United States during September, a survey says. Spending appears to be influenced by fears of online fraud.

Consumers in Europe and the United States are spending more online than ever. But Americans are more worried about fraud and identity theft than their counterparts across the Atlantic, a new survey shows.

Momentum Research Group reported Monday that market confidence was higher in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom than in the United States during September. The survey, which is part of a larger study, shows that spending appears to be influenced by fears of online fraud.

Only 16 percent of U.S. respondents and 13 percent of those in the U.K. said they were spending less than previously. In Germany, only 6 percent had decreased their online spending. In France, only 9 percent had cut back on Internet purchases.

Ninety percent of U.S. consumers were familiar with identity theft, while one out of three consumers in Germany and France was aware of the problem, according to the study commissioned by RSA Security Inc.

"With this year's ongoing wave of publicity around U.S.-based data breaches and online fraud, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that understanding of these threats is highest in North America," RSA Security President and CEO Art Coviello said in a prepared statement.

When shown Web sites in eight business sectors and asked whether the industries were doing everything necessary to secure transactions, Americans were less confident than Europeans in every case, according to the report. The sectors tested include: government, hardware and software producers, ISPs, credit reporting firms and industry alliances that set Internet security standards. Almost half of the respondents in the United States said they had little or no confidence the groups were protecting their information.

Still, two-thirds of French respondents said they worried about unauthorized access to personal information on banking sites and 61 percent said they worried about retail sites. Only 27 percent of Germans worried about retail sites.

Consumers in all countries said they were more likely to trust a site if they had prior experience with it. Most said businesses should protect their personal data and reimburse them if their accounts are breached. French respondents were the exception, stating that they expected reimbursement but would not hold online retailers responsible for data breaches. Germans were alone in expressing a belief that the government should also protect them from fraud.

"For consumers, the key to online confidence lies at the door of the business community – meaning that it is imperative for online vendors to be seen taking appropriate measures to protect their customers' interests," Coviello said. "The survey clearly demonstrates that, once their trust is earned, users will return and spend again and again. But that trust is a fragile commodity."

The survey also showed that consumers believe fraud occurs because of online transactions equally or more frequently than not. Less than half of respondents said they were familiar with phishing. Most would benefit from more education regarding new technologies that can protect their information, according to a statement from RSA.

The online survey asked 39 questions of 603 consumers who access one or more accounts each month. The next survey in the larger study will focus on businesses.

RSA Security produces Internet security products, including authentication and encryption.

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