Online Spending Soars In The UK

Brits are feeling more comfortable using plastic for purchases than they have in the past, and the Internet is playing no small role in this transformation of payment preferences.

The Association for Payment Clearing Services APACS) recent ”The Way We Pay report” has revealed that last year, online spending in the UK reached £200m. – a 50 percent increase over the previous year, and that credit and debit cards were the preferred method of payment for these transactions.

According to the APACS Website, the group is ”a non-statutory Association of major banks and building societies that has become the umbrella body at the heart of the UK payments industry. APACS provides the forum for banks and building societies to discuss non-competitive issues relating to money transmission.”

While this amount represents only a fraction of the overall spending in the UK, the increase points to a trend in purchasing habits that is expected to grow with improvements in Internet security and consumer confidence in e-commerce.

While use of plastic for payment in the UK grew by 9 percent to 160.6 million last year, this year, the figure is expected to top £269bn, compared to £268bn being spent in cash. The growth won’t stop there, however, as credit and debit card payments are projected to surpass cash payments in 2005.

The growth of credit and debit card use hasn’t been problem-free, however, but surprisingly, credit and debit card fraud has declined after rising for the past eight years, due in part to improved security steps, including the £1.1bn investment by UK card issuers in embedded chip and PIN technology.

Director of corporate communications at APACS, Sandra Quinn, stated that ”Our anti-crime measures lead the world. Chip and PIN is now rolling outcross the country and puts Britain ahead of any other nation when it comes to fighting card crime.”

Addressing her organization’s role in improving the security and ease of use of credit and debit cards as a payment vehicle, while addressing consumer concerns, Quinn said ”For much of 2003, we saw active criticism of the credit card industry. In some areas, the industry recognized the need for improvement – and we acted. In others, we believed change would harm our customers, and we said so.”

Quinn commented that ”The Government’s supplementary response to the Treasury Select Committee last week provided clear support of many of the views we had given. We were pleased to see they had recognized the importance of taking into account the views of card customers,” adding ”That said, as an industry, we continue to seek ways of improving the transparency offered by this industry.”