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Although they will be looking at the market as a whole, it is expected that views and habits will cross over a wide range of activity, including art and antiques.

Around 130,000 UK businesses now sell online, in a market representing about 2.5 per cent of all household spending (over £18 billion a year in total). In the last five years, internet retail sales in the UK rose by over 350 per cent, compared with growth of only 20 per cent for all retail sales.

In 2005, the typical online shopper spent £560 online, and forecasts suggest that this could grow to over £860 per year by 2010.

Research has also identified consumer concerns when shopping online about security of payment, or potential problems with delivery.

The study will explore consumer confidence in this area and, in particular, whether the current consumer protection regime meets any new challenges raised by this mode of selling.

A key consideration will be whether to propose changes in legislation to protect consumers as a result of the findings.