The Department of Trade and Industry yesterday launched its safer internet shopping campaign to prepare people for the Christmas spending spree.

The campaign, which includes a 10-point guidance list, hopes to raise awareness about 'e-shopping' and reassure people that it is as safe to buy goods online as it is from the High Street.

"E-commerce is transforming UK business. [The campaign has] won wide support from businesses, because they recognise the importance of building the trust of consumer to maintaining and expanding their markets," Said E-commerce minister Douglas Alexander (pictured) at the launch of the campaign.

A survey was conducted in September 2001 by the DTI, in association with pollsters MORI, to determine people's attitudes towards online shopping, which showed that people are still concerned over safety even though they're buying more.

The survey revealed that despite the popularity of online buying, with around 12 million having purchased goods online, 47 percent of people were concerned about credit card fraud and 32 percent were worried about giving out personal information.

And it's quite clear why. Over the last year there have been a number of serious 'glitches' by companies selling goods online which have done nothing to increase people's trust of the internet.

Just this week BT Openworld, one of the companies that pledged its support for the campaign admitted it had been infected by the BadTrans.B virus, which gives hackers access to customers' credit card details, and may have passed it on to 1.5 million customers.

BT Openworld is one of the companies to pledge its support for the campaign others include AOL and Amazon.

"This new guidance leaflet should give consumers an understanding of how they can protect themselves when they use a credit card to shop online," said Sheila McKenzie Director of the Consumers Association.

But even if the guidelines offer customers some reassurance there is little they can do to protect themselves against the mishaps and misfortunes of companies.

APACS (Association of Credit Card Services) is also backing the scheme. It said customers should remember that credit card fraud amounts to a tiny proportion of total fraud. It also said where fraud had been committed most customers would be covered by their banks anyway.

For the guidelines, click here.