The UAE telecommunications regulator has launched a trust mark scheme for internet sites in a bid to boost the country's low levels of e-commerce.
Websites that pass a series of assessments will be permitted to display the TRUSTae logo, proving to consumers that they have been deemed trustworthy by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). The TRA will assess whether websites meet particular security standards and have secure infrastructure, as well as verifying the existence of companies purporting to operate sites.
"Once you see our TRUSTae seal, it is an assurance from us … that we did verify the documentation of the company, that this company does exist," said Majed Al Mesmar, the deputy director general of the TRA.
Mr Al Mesmar said that seven UAE government agencies had signed up for the scheme.
The TRA hopes to roll it out to other organisations worldwide at the beginning of next year.
The main focus of TRUSTae is to boost consumer confidence in using online transactions, said Meshal bin Hussain, the director of security operations at the TRA. "There have been some fake merchants coming up with websites and selling products," he said. "But that's not our main focus here."
Many trust mark systems, such as the "Verified by Visa" scheme, are available globally.
Mr Al Mesmar acknowledged that the TRUSTae system faced competition but said it was designed specifically for the UAE. "It's customised for UAE requirements. It's for this region," he said.
He added that fees for companies to register for a TRUSTae verification had not yet been decided.
Just 6 per cent of Middle East internet users regularly shop online, according to a recent survey by the Dubai market research company Real Opinions. The survey found that 43 per cent of Web users were deterred from shopping online because they did not trust payment systems.
A lack of suitable payment options, the small number of online retailers, unreliable delivery and poor website design were also cited as barriers.
"It's encouraging that the TRA is acknowledging some of the hurdles holding up the growth of e-commerce and trying to be proactive to boost this industry," said Dan Healy, the chief executive of Real Opinions. "From our research, a lack of trust is an issue."
However, he said that the TRUSTae initiative faced competition.
"The TRA will certainly have a challenge to build this mark to be internationally or regionally recognised, and given other initiatives offered by credit card organisations such as Verified by Visa," Mr Healy said.
According to JPMorgan, global e-commerce revenues are forecast to grow to US$680 billion (Dh2.49 trillion) this year, up by 18.9 per cent from last year.
Yet just 5 per cent of UAE companies use the Web to sell their products or services, while only 11 per cent make purchases online, according to a survey by the TRA published this year.