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Consumer Reports Rates E-Commerce Systems

The popularity of e-commerce has led Consumer Reports to develop a ratings system to measure their performance.

e-Ratings can be found on Consumer Reports Online. It systematically rates online retailers in areas such as security, privacy, shipping and handling, returns, and customer service policies; ease of use when browsing for products, searching for specific items, and placing orders; and the amount and quality of product information available and the availability of useful personalization/customization, special services or unique features. Sites are scored using Consumer Report magazine's five-point ratings system.

The service launched Monday with evaluations of 30 catalog merchant sites, as well as sites selling books, music and toys. The company said it plans on posting reviews of electronic gear and small appliances sites in the coming weeks. The service is available to paid subscribers of the site.

To supplement Consumer Reports proprietary evaluations, e-Ratings includes information on shopper experience from BizRate.com. The BizRate.com's merchant rating is given with a link to BizRate.com's full online store performance report for the rated merchant's site. BizRate.com rates e-businesses by asking thousands of consumers on a daily basis to share their actual shopping experiences.

"Consumer Reports Online e-Ratings is designed to help Web shoppers select the sites to shop at -- much as we help shoppers select the products they purchase or the services they use," said Nancy Macagno, director of New Media for Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine and Consumer Reports Online.

"We are using the distinctive Consumer Reports 'testing' approach with each site to come up with unbiased ratings that are meaningful and helpful to consumers."