Latin Americans are more fearful than North Americans about online security, and these concerns have stifled electronic commerce in Latin America, according to research released Tuesday by Visa International.
Credit card issuers see Latin America as a good place to expand, and Visa said it has taken steps to allay security concerns so that issuers can drum up more business. In August Visa introduced in Brazil a policy of "zero liability" for people who are victims of fraudulent Internet transactions. It plans to extend the protection to other Latin American countries.
Online merchants who enroll in the program are guaranteed payment even when a consumer balks at paying for an online purchase.
Jonathan Sanchez-Jaimes, president of Visa International, said Visa is also taking steps to ensure the authenticity of merchants and cardholders on the Internet. In Brazil, people can register online to get an authentication certificate, a user ID, and a password. They are then covered by the "zero liability" protection when doing business with merchants who are also registered. Under this system, "the merchant never has to see the account number but only sees an authorization, and that's all he needs to get paid," Mr. Sanchez-Jaimes said.
Eliminating liability is seen as a crucial way to boost confidence in Internet payments in Latin America, where online retailing remains a "wide-open market," according to the study by Visa International and Boston Consulting Group.
The study asked 85 online retailers, most of them in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, about the problems that make them less viable than brick-and-mortar stores. Security was one of the biggest.
Besides querying merchants, Boston Consulting Group did a blind shopping test in which it bought various goods from online merchants: books, CDs, food and beverages, flowers and gifts, travel tickets, computers, and consumer electronics. Twelve percent of these purchases never arrived; 7% were canceled; 22% were late, and 59% were on time, according to Thomas Wenrich, vice president of the consulting firm. "That's going to have to get better for these sites to survive," he said.
At the end of October, American Express Co. expects to release a survey of Internet activity in 10 international markets, including Argentina and Brazil, said Roopa Singh, a spokeswoman.