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In the news - Britain's online economy

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 11:02 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2012

According to a recent study, the UK is the 'most internet-based economy'.

A report by researchers Boston Consulting Group found that out of the G20 nations, the internet accounted for 8.3% of the UK economy – almost double the average of the other countries surveyed. The UK's 'internet economy' was £121bn in 2010, said BCG and is predicted to rise to £216bn in 2016. 

Online retail was a big contributing factor to the figures, with web transactions accounting for 13.5% of all UK purchases in 2010.

Could the findings reflect a surge in British web-buying confidence? Consumers are covered by a range of guarantees thanks to rules on distance-selling and increasing regulation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Barely a week goes by without one website or other making the news following warnings and recommendations from the body to ensure buyers aren’t being mis-sold.

Such measures – and the publicity they generate – may help foster a sense of trust in online retail, so that we Brits are happy to click 'Confirm Order', knowing that if something goes wrong, there are rules to protect us.

But is this increasing reliance on web-shopping a sign that we’re becoming more lazy and antisocial or is it just a matter of convenience and penny-pinching, that’s not only good for the UK economy but our own wallets?

Many online sellers offer free delivery and free returns if customers aren’t happy with a product, saving money on fuel as well as avoiding the hassle of a trip out on a busy Saturday and queuing at a till. For working parents wanting to spend quality time with their children, it might make sense to order your groceries online – often paying little more than the cost of petrol for delivery – rather than spending a sunny afternoon in a supermarket being tempted by treats that might push the weekly food bill over budget.

Traditionalists might argue that the web is drawing us away from people and social interaction, but shopping smart online has never been easier, and as nice as many sales assistants are, isn't spending time with friends and family more important?

Even though there are lots of laws to protect us, take the WebWise course on shopping online to help you buy with confidence.

Read the full BBC News story on Britain's internet economy.

Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.

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