Report: E-tail Privacy Policies Improving

Major e-commerce companies are strengthening their customer privacy protection practices and more prominently displaying their privacy policies, according to a survey released Friday by Internet consulting firm Peppers and Rogers Group.

The survey comes as debate continues to rage over Amazon.com’s recent decision to change its privacy policy and consider its customer data an asset in the event that the company is sold.

Ironically, Amazon.com was named as a winner in the “department store/mega-malls” category by Peppers and Rogers Group, as it narrowed the 400 Web sites surveyed down to 24 winners. The survey also scrutinized the Web sites’ customer interaction practices.

Privacy Made Public

The fourth annual survey conducted by the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm revealed that 48 percent of the sites surveyed indicated they did not share customer data with outside parties, while half the sites that do share user information allow customers to opt out.

Those percentages reflect an improvement over past rates, Peppers and Rogers said, and indicate an awareness of the importance of privacy policies to online consumers.

The significance of personal online security for Web users was further revealed in a report issued Thursday by the Privacy Council at the Global Privacy Summit. The organization found that 97 percent of 800 adult Internet users surveyed said that companies that change their privacy policies should be required to alert their customers before selling their personal data.

Also, the survey noted that over 60 percent of Internet users who do not shop online cited privacy and security concerns as their main reason for not doing so, the Privacy Council said.

Customers Count

Peppers and Rogers said that the survey illustrates the importance of top-notch customer management practices.

“When evaluating sites it is amazing to see that certain Web sites are so far ahead of others — simply put, they provide their customers with what they want in a way that is user-friendly,” said Pepper and Rogers Research Director Jonathan Brookner.

The survey determined that as many as 45 percent of the Web sites have inadequate e-mail response, with some 21 percent of those surveyed not responding at all to communications by consumers. By contrast, the firm said that top-rated sites answered e-mail inquiries in two hours.

“One-click” shopping capabilities are also on the rise, the firm said. The number of Web sites using the function increased from 20 percent of those surveyed in February to 45 percent in the most recent survey.

In addition to Amazon.com, survey winners included Fogdog.com, American Express, Merrill Lynch, CDNow, Drugstore.com, PlanetRx, Expedia and Travelocity.

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