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Big names back e-commerce protocol

A raft of companies join hands to ease Internet transactions.

A raft of Internet commerce companies are backing a new protocol aimed at boosting consumer sales on the Net.

New backers of the Open Trading Protocol (OTP), designed to smooth nonpayment aspects of Internet transactions, include Actra, British Telecom, CyberCash, Dot Matrix, Hitachi, IBM, Nokia, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Unisource, and VeriFone. The standard is sponsored by Mondex.

OTP, due to be published this summer, is designed to handle before- and after-sales issues, not payments, which are dealt with by other standards such as Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) for credit card payments. Mondex intends to hand OTP over to a standards group.

"Consumers buying online should be as comfortable and confident making a purchase as they are in the real world today," said David Burdett, senior implementation manager at e-cash firm Mondex, which is pushing the protocol.

Original backers of OTP were AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Open Market, and MasterCard, the payment card firm that owns 51 percent of OTP sponsor Mondex.

The protocol covers pre-sale elements such as purchase offers and post-sale elements such as transfers, delivery, receipts, and dispute resolution.