IQ News: Accountant Army Dissects Web

An army of trained auditors is looking to ensure consumers feel comfortable with online commerce. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New York, is embarking on a multi-million dollar print, radio and online campaign to promote “CPA WebTrust,” its fledgling business of auditing transactional Web sites.
A print and radio campaign from Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, kicks off next month, followed by banner ads on Forbes.com, Wall Street Journal Interactive and usatoday.com.
Under the program, trained CPAs are available for hire to dissect retailers’ online transaction protocol–from posting customer service numbers, to ensuring consumers’ credit card information is exchanged securely and that the buyer gets what they paid for. Once electronic retailers satisfy the transaction criteria, they can post the seal of CPA WebTrust (www.cpawebtrust.org) on their site. “We’ve tried to raise the bar for the minimum type of things [retailers] should do online,” said K. Casey Bennett, director of assurance services for the AICPA.
To date, three businesses have received the stamp, including the Fort Thomas, Ken.-based ISP, Resource Marketing Inc. “With third-party credibility, for instance, we figured we’d see a boost in the sale of ad banners,” said Christopher Swainhart, president of Resource Marketing. He claims banner sales have tripled since the site earned the seal.
So far, 1,500 AICPA-trained auditors from firms including New York-based Deloitte & Touche have qualified for the program. –Bernhard Warner