March 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

BuyerTrust bets $25,000 that e-commerce sites are legit and secure

Security verification vendor Comodo says e-commerce companies that qualify to display its new BuyerTrust symbol are legitimate and secure. In fact, it’s willing to wager $25,000 on it.

Security verification vendor Comodo says e-commerce companies that qualify to display its new BuyerTrust symbol are legitimate and secure. In fact, it’s willing to wager $25,000 on it.

Comodo next week will soft launch BuyerTrust, a program that puts e-commerce sites though a rigorous boot camp of tests to verify that they are secure and stable and that the companies behind them are honest businesses. If the site passes-and the company pays a fee-it can display the BuyerTrust symbol, which explains to shoppers that their purchases are guaranteed up to $25,000.

Comodo, which, similar to Verisign and McAfee offers logos or seals that assure consumers a web site is secure, says its new service is different because it’s standing behind its claim with cash.

The right to display the seal, however, won’t come easily, says Alex Kehayias, e-commerce product manager for Comodo. Beyond the usual tests Comodo conducts before allowing a site to display its traditional security symbols, such as making sure the site regularly scans for vulnerabilities and cardholder data, BuyerTrust merchants must also prove financial stability and that they aren’t scamming consumers.

“We check to see how long they have been in business, and look at their online sales revenue,” Kehayias says. And Comodo conducts credit checks though partnerships with Fair Isaac, Dun & Bradstreet and Experian.

It also requires e-commerce sites to provide access to all online transactions so that Comodo can see if shoppers are frequently filing claims with card companies to get their money back. “We only want to be associated with the best merchants,” Kehayias says.

Fees for BuyerTrust start at $249 a year and increase with a merchant’s online sales volume. E-commerce sites can add the symbol to as many pages as they wish by adding a snippet of code into the body tag of a page. When consumers mouse over the seal, they can see more details about the guarantee. At checkout, merchants display what BuyerTrust calls an eVouch, asking a shoppers to sign up for the free service by checking a box and providing an e-mail address. BuyerTrust then sends the shopper the guarantee via e-mail.

BuyerTrust will refund shoppers up to $25,000 if items don’t come as described or if they don’t have a “safe and secure shopping experience,” such as if they are a victim of fraud because of a purchase made on the site.

To request a refund, shoppers e-mail Comodo their BuyerTrust guarantee, explain what went wrong and what they want done to fix the problem. “From there we act as the go- between to resolve the issue,” Kehayias says. But, ultimately, if the merchant doesn’t pay up, BuyerTrust is on the line, Kehayias says.

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