Online shopping sales in Switzerland have almost doubled to SFr4.24 billion ($3.47 billion) over the past three years amid a decline in fears over internet security.
A study by St Gallen University's Institute of Marketing and Retailing, published on Monday, showed for example that 40 per cent of the country's five million internet users now buy flights online.
"There are still concerns about using credit cards and security is still a problem, but this is decreasing," Thomas Rudolph, director of the institute, told swissinfo.
"What could be improved, though, is availability of the internet. Not everyone has access to it."
It is the fifth time in the past decade that the institute has conducted a survey of online retail trends, interviewing 1,100 internet users on their shopping habits.
Around a third said they used the internet for online banking, buying concert tickets and simply getting hold of information. CDs, books and computer hardware were also popular purchases.
Unsurprisingly a list of the top ten retail sites used by Swiss internet users features household names such as Amazon, eBay and easyJet. Online search engine Google was the homepage of choice for almost 25 per cent of them.
But just how much of this SFr4.24 billion is being spent in Switzerland and how much is going abroad?
"That's a difficult question," said Rudolph. "But we suspect that most of the money is spent on Swiss sites. What makes us a bit sure about this is that if you look at our top ten list for online retail in Switzerland, I think all of them have a website here."
According to a report last year on online trade in Europe by Forrester Research, retail sales topped €100 billion (SFr162 billion) last year and will reach €263 billion in 2011.
Forrester predicts that sales in Switzerland will be more than €5 billion in 2011. This year the Swiss are expected to account for 1.3 per cent of Europe's €130 billion online sales.
This puts Switzerland roughly on a par with Denmark, ahead of Ireland, Portugal and Greece, but well behind big-hitters Britain and Germany.
According to the St Gallen study, Swiss internet users spent on average SFr618 last year, which Rudolph says is above the European median.
The bulk of them – over 85 per cent – are aged between 15 and 45. But 20 per cent of surfers over-65 are now using the internet as a "buying channel", which represents a sizeable increase on previous years.
Inevitably the internet retail boom has set alarm bells ringing among consumer groups in Switzerland who say online shoppers need better protection – not least the right to cancel orders.
"[This] would improve security," said Jacqueline Bachmann, director of the country's main consumer protection association. "A parliamentary initiative has been lodged by our president Simonetta Sommaruga to introduce such a law, which already exists in the European Union."
swissinfo, Adam Beaumont
According to Forrester Research, the number of Europeans shopping online has increased by 37% in the past two years.
At the end of 2003, 48% of Europeans went online at least once per month, and 19% had shopped online; two years later, these numbers had risen to 54% and 26%, respectively.
Britain leads the European league of online spenders, followed by Germany and France.
Increasingly sophisticated cyber fraud led to the creation of the Swiss Coordination Unit for Cybercrime Control in 2003.
The unit handles hundreds of complaints a month, mainly concerning spam mail.
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