Britons who refuse to shop online due to security fears could be missing out on annual savings of £175m to £375m, according to a government study.
The Office of Fair Trading's Internet Shopping study (pdf) found a high level of worry among consumers about risks involved in using credit cards to make web payments - but it's worry that is often unnecessary.
"There are risks from using the internet generally, but it is not apparent that such high levels of fear about shopping online are warranted, provided shoppers and businesses take sensible precautions," the report concluded.
"However, awareness of these precautions, as well as the remedies available if something goes wrong, remains weak. Advice to shoppers needs to inform without scaring them."
Meanwhile, the OFT said shoppers who do buy online could make savings of £150m to £240m just by searching more extensively, while consumers incur around £60m to £100m annually in unexpected charges, often added to a purchase at the end of a transaction.
The report also found awareness of shoppers' rights is low amongst online traders, with many breaking laws designed to protect consumers. It said the lack of a single agency to provide retailers with such advice was a contributory factor.
The OFT will now consult other bodies to draw up a strategy including an awareness campaign, with a timetable running to the end of the year.