A survey of 2,400 UK online shoppers commissioned by MoreComputers.com has revealed the irritation many feel with the practice of 'philfing', or adding hidden charges on online sales.

The term 'philfing' stands for 'purposely hiding what I'm looking for', and the survey found that 93% of UK web users are annoyed by such hidden charges.

Other e-commerce practices which irritated shoppers included:

  • Having to register before buying - this annoyed 57% of those surveyed, while 14% said this would make them abandon a purchase.
  • 35% found hidden delivery costs annoying, while this would prevent 64% from buying from a website.
  • No phone number being supplied for the site annoyed almost everyone, and rightly so. 48% found this annoying, while 50% would never purchase anything from such a site.
  • Strangely, 36% found the type of 'people who bought this, also bought...' information typical of Amazon annoying, while 5% said this would put them off buying.

Most of the practices labelled as annoying in this survey are things which no respectable e-commerce operator should consider doing, although you'll be surprised at some of the names that do hide details that are key to the transaction.

Establishing customers' trust in the buying process is essential, and is difficult to re-establish once it has been broken. Not providing a phone number or hiding extra charges until the customer has gone through the checkout process is guaranteed to break this trust. This is simply about understanding and managing consumer expectations

We're on the verge of publishing our annual Online Retail report, which some of you will be familiar with, and it deals almost exclusively with this issue. It will benchmark the top UK online retailers in this area (hidden shipping fees, etc) and is packed full of recommendations. Keep an eye out for it.

Further reading:
Online Retail User Experience Benchmarks 2006

Graham Charlton

Published 23 May, 2007 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (2)


Tim Leighton-Boyce, Analyst at CxFocus

I'm interested by the figure of 64% saying that they find "hidden delivery charges" really annoying and that this would make them not buy.

This seems to be a survey based on what people said they would do, and not necessarily what they do in real life. The language of the question is loaded as well: "hidden" suggests bad faith. That's a very different thing from the common problem where the cost of delivery is not made really clear until you are in the checkout and have supplied delivery address.

It's usually regarded as undesirable to do this. But I've had discussions with died-in-the-wool catalogue merchants who maintain that once the customer has made the emotional decision to buy, adding the delivery charges at the bottom of the form, or as the last item mentioned by the call centre agent does not normally end the sale.

We know that the web is different. We know that people will add to basket when they have little likelihood of buying simply as a 'holding' move, or for the purposes of comparison, or simply to add up what such a purchase might cost, in a way which they would not do when dealing with a real person.

I'd be really interested to be pointed at some research on this subject based on what people did, rather than what they say they would do. Does anyone know of any published A/B test comparing the effects of showing the delivery charges at different stages of the customer journey, please?

about 11 years ago



u struck me with the fact that the phone number is that important!!

about 9 years ago

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