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Better Business Bureau goes online

The Better Business Bureau is planning a new service for online consumers.

The Better Business Bureau next week is expected to announce a new service aimed at protecting consumers who are nervous about spending money online.

Major players including Netscape Communications, AT&T, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, and CommerceNet have sponsored the service and will speak at an event next week with Chris Varney, Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission.

The bureau will establish guidelines for online merchants to ensure consumer privacy and prevent fraudulent storefronts. Businesses who register with the bureau will place the official stamp on their home pages to let consumers know that they've been approved as legitimate electronic businesses. The stamps should start showing up by next spring, according to a Bureau spokesperson.

Earlier this month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a group of Internet and electronic commerce companies formed a similar online transactional security and privacy program called eTrust. The program will license symbols representing different levels of privacy and security to online merchants through a certification and auditing program.

Online commerce has yet to take off but is expected to bring in $6.7 billion by the year 2000, according to research firm Jupiter Communications.