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Survey: French Online Purchases Doubled in Six Months

About 500,000 people in France made purchases on the Internet during June, more than double last December's amount, according to a study by the French survey institute TMO.

"Internet use is climbing at a faster rate in France than in Germany and the U.K., and this is automatically pushing up the number of online buyers," explained TMO's Ahmed El Gazzah.

TMO estimates that the French e-commerce market will generate FF4.3 billion (U.S.$717 million) in 1999 sales.

El Gazzah directed the French portion of the June survey, phase four of a study on European Internet-use habits that TMO has been conducting since 1997 in concert with NOP Research NOP Research in England and Infratest Burke Intratest Burke in Germany.

The institutes polled a randomly chosen, representative sample of more than 12,000 users in the UK and more than 6,000 each in France and Germany, all over 15 years old.

Some 14 percent of French respondents said they had gone online in the last 12 months. Based on this, the company estimates 6.5 million Internet users in France, up from 4.8 million in December, according to El Gazzah. This represents a 35.4 percent increase.

TMO forecasts that France's connection rate will reach 21.6 percent over the next year.

By way of comparison, 16.5 million Germans said they had connected, up from 15 million in December, a 10 percent increase, El Gazzah said. U.K. users totaled 12.7 million, up from 10.7 million, an 18.6 percent increase.

The connection rate represents the percentage of the sample that had logged on, not those having connection equipment, El Gazzah said. The French Internet equipment rate is only 3 to 4 percent, or about 2.5 million people. France still substantially lags its neighbors in terms of online buying, according to TMO.Nine percent of French Web users made online purchases during June, El Gazzah said.

"Extrapolating for the overall French population of 15 years old and up, we estimate that close to one-half million French bought on the Internet that month," he said.

The buying rate was 15 percent in the U.K. and 20 percent in Germany, he said. About 80 percent of French online buyers were in the 25-44 age group; 73 percent were men and 94 percent were employed, according to TMO. Some 59% of these purchases occurred on French sites, 40 percent were for books, 24 percent for CDs and 16 percent for software. The average per-person expenditure was FF829.

Lack of confidence in online-payment security has posed a stumbling block to Internet commerce in France, which is accustomed to the ultra-safe Minitel system. The study suggests that this may be improving.

"Fifty-one percent of online buyers expressed confidence in online payment and had paid by giving a credit card number," TMO said.



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