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DTI to finance schemes for better, safer surfing

Improving online consumer protection to cost half a million

The Department of Trade and Industry has announced it will donate nearly £500,000 to online projects.

As part of its Modernisation Fund — a scheme launched last year to raise standards of consumer protection at local level — £10m will be allocated throughout 2002 and 2003 to research and develop e-commerce initiatives.

"We are determined to give a better deal to consumers, giving them more choice, better services and competitive prices," said consumer minister, Melanie Johnson, speaking at the Trading Standards Institute annual conference.

But the £440,000 funding has been split between nine Trading Standards departments across the country, leaving each with around £48,000, which doesn't seem that much to develop a successful online project.

"Money has been distributed appropriately and we accepted the bids which we thought would most benefit the area," said a DTI spokesman.

One such successful bid is Enfield Trading Standards' project to find out if easy access to online loans and the like is pushing up consumer debt. It plans to ensure online finance advertising remains within set guidelines. It will also offer advice and education to online buyers about applying for online finance and resolving debt problems.

A second project will create an e-tourism site for visitors to the capital. The site will give advice on accommodation, pricing and other money matters and provide useful contact numbers for tourists.

"Concise advise by a reputable body is always useful for tourists. If you're in a country you do not know it is worrying which companies and websites to trust," said an ABTA (Association British of Travel Agents) spokesman.

Other projects include setting up a dot.com chemist in Scotland, a national e-commerce and cyber crime training initiative in the south-east and an e-business advice package for the north-west.

A further £9.5m of funding will to be allocated over the next 18 months.

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