TALLINN - E-commerce in Estonia will continue to grow, business experts say, though a consumer advocacy group has cited numerous difficulties with the quality of service of over-the-Net business.
Heikki Haldre, manager of the online retailer Netikuller.ee, said that the share of Web-based transactions in retail trade is expected to keep growing in the tech-savvy Baltic state.
"People feel more comfortable placing an order on the Web, and ordering things over the Internet has become a daily activity," he said, stressing that the increased trust in security was a crucial factor in growth.
In addition, making purchases online has become simpler and orders are delivered more quickly, Haldre said.
"The number of orders and Netikuller.ee's turnover have doubled every six months, and the same rate of increase in sales can be seen this year," he said. "During the next few years we expect the number of purchases made online in Estonia to catch up with that of other countries where online commerce has a longer history."
Currently Estonians are primarily using the Internet to buy "long-tail" goods 's i.e., goods that one cannot buy in stores in Estonia. Purchases of such goods are made regardless of price, Haldre said. The best example is the iPhone.
The average age of consumers placing an order online in Estonia is 30 years, and men make up 75 percent of online buyers. The average value of an order has increased to 3,200 kroons (205 euros), up from roughly 2,000 kroons a year ago.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Protection Board and the European Union consumer counseling center announced earlier this month that they have launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the risks of e-commerce.
Experience of the consumer watchdog and a related advisory center shows that more and more people are disappointed with transactions concluded over the Internet, center chief Kristina Vaksmaa said.
"The main problem consumers have encountered when purchasing goods via the Internet is that the vendor neither delivers the goods nor refunds the money," she said.
"Over the past year the Consumer Protection Board has had to deal with about 200 respective complaints," she said.
Vaksmaa added that the problem concerns both domestic sellers and vendors operating in other EU member states who have failed to satisfy Estonian consumers' claims.
She said consumers should know that consumer protection provisions do not apply to transactions in which a person-to-person transaction occurs at so-called Web auctions.
According to a recent survey by the TNS Emor pollster, some 40 percent of Estonians aged 15-74 use the Internet on a daily basis, a number which has increased over the past year.
Meanwhile, the national statistics office announced in October that 94 out of 100 enterprises in Estonia with 10 or more employees use computers. Virtually all companies, or 99 percent, have Internet access.
Six out of 10 enterprises have their own Web sites, which were mostly used for marketing (92 percent), offering access to product catalogues or price lists (47 percent) and providing after-sales support (26 percent).