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The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA) in the UK yesterday launched a service that will award a ‘seal of approvalÆ that will guarantee the security and integrity of web sites. The WebTrust service will be provided by chartered accountants in addition to the auditing and other services. If companies operating in the UK successfully pass the audit, they will be allowed to display a kite-mark type seal on their web site. Specially trained accountants will audit web sites to check they are safe from viruses, protect the confidentiality of private information and that goods ordered through them are delivered in good condition and with money back guarantees, said the ICA. It is very similar to initiaitives in the US by Truste and the Better Business Bureau Online to safeguard user’s privacy and thus hopefully increase confidence in internet commerce. Truste has already begun work in Europe. The ICA will be accrediting certain accountancy firms and running courses to train them to provide the service. The classes are expected to begin in Spring 1999 with the first seals being issued in late Summer. The ICA said web sites will be regularly reviewed and seals will be withdrawn if sites no longer adhere to the criteria of approval. The service will be paid for by the company which requests the audit, on the grounds that it will encourage consumers to adopt electronic commerce. WebTrust was developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) and has been operating in the US and Canada since 1997. The ICA said it expects the service to soon be available in mainland Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

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