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Online shopping to cost businesses £7bn, experts warn

The popularity of online Christmas shopping could cost British businesses more than £7 billion, experts have warned. Online sales are set to hit £9 billion this Christmas after more than two million people took up shopping on the Internet in the past twelve months.

Now employment law experts have warned that the cost on British businesses could be huge.

“More and more people are turning to the Internet either to buy presents, or to do a little window shopping,"? said Peter Mooney, of Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS). “But for many employers, every hour a member of staff spends looking for Christmas presents online is an hour they should have spent working.

“Even using rather conservative estimates, that could cost UK businesses billions between now and December 25."? Working on an average of half an hour a day spent shopping online, and an average hourly wage of £12.50, ELAS estimate that UK employers could stand to lose almost a billion pounds a week in lost work time.

With eight working weeks to go before Christmas, that could amount to almost £7.25 billion in lost time. “Very few employers are so Scrooge-like that they wouldn’t forgive their staff the occasional glance at Christmas presents online,"? said Mr Mooney.

“But with sophisticated – and at times, addictive - websites now geared to keeping shoppers online for as long as possible, even an occasional glance can turn into half an hour browsing. “That time soon adds up, and it costs UK Plc billions,"? he added.

To combat the problem, employers need to act now - weeks before their staff’s shopping starts in earnest - by setting out a specific Internet policy.

“By outlining what is and what is not acceptable during work time, employers not only remind their staff not to abuse work systems, but give themselves a solid basis on which to take action whenever anyone oversteps the mark,"? explains Mr Mooney.

“Without that, not only do bosses face losing a lot of time to shopping, they could even come unstuck for taking excessive action."?

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.