Trust in E-Commerce: Risk and Trust Building

Trust in E-Commerce: Risk and Trust Building

Loong Wong (University of Canberra, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-096-7.ch007
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This chapter examines the importance of trust in business-to-consumer e-commerce. The author explores the issue of trust in the development and implementation of e-commerce and focuses on the context and role of users and consumers in transactions. The author contends that trust is more than a technical consideration and emphasizes the non-technical components such as community, identity, and experiences and their relevance to e-commerce. Despite the growing ubiquity of e-commerce, analysts and commentators continue to draw our attention to the issue of trust in e-commerce transactions. In particular, stories of “hacking,” “phishing,” and illegitimate online transactions have been an on-going public and private concern. These breaches are seen as cyber crimes and detrimental to the development of an efficient and effective business practice. Resolving these breaches are costly; businesses have to outlay financial resources not only to fix the breaches but, in the eyes of their clients, such breaches call into question the efficacy, integrity, and security of these businesses, creating both disquiet and a potential shift to alternative providers. For individuals, it boils down to an invasion of privacy and a lack of trust in the integrity of business systems and practices. This chapter examines the critical import of trust in businessto- consumer e-commerce. The chapter begins by exploring the issue of trust in the development and implementation of e-commerce; in particular, it focuses on the context and the central role of users and consumers in the transaction process. I argue that this development is an evolutionary one congruent with increasing complexities and the shift towards a risk society. The author argues that there is a growing virtualization of social life and that this virtualization plays an important role in our everyday lives. In particular, it transforms our views of agency, interactionism and community, generating both new identities and new possible spheres of autonomous action. Businesses have cashed in on these developments and sought to provide users with choices and ease of use, contributing to a pervasive and critical reception to e-commerce business practices. Via their Web sites and information conveyed, we learn to trust the information we receive. As such, we tend to equate trust with information. Trust becomes no more than a technical consideration. However, trust is and cannot simply be reducible to information. Its nontechnical components—the issues of community, identity and experiences—are critically important. As such, I seek to examine these issues in this chapter and their relationships to the building of trust and consequently, their relevance to e-commerce.
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What Is Trust?

Everyday, we place our trust in people, even strangers, and in the services these people provide. We trust that our friends, our accountants, and our lawyers will not betray our confidences, that the food we consume will not poison us, that the car we travel in will not break down, that people will listen to us when we talk to them, that our parents and children will tell us the truth and, indeed, the list goes on. If we do not place our trust so routinely in others, life would be practically unbearable, and we would be enveloped by all sorts of fearful possibilities and risks. Our life would rapidly descend into chaos or helplessness and we would rapidly be tagged as neurotic, schizophrenic, obsessive-compulsive. For most of us, this scenario is nowhere near our day to day reality—instead we learn to interact and trust people and strangers.

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