More people are shopping online but many remain fearful of sending their credit card details into cyberspace.

News of a massive security breach on the website of a major British company will not help persuade the doubters that e-business is the way forward.

PowerGen, a giant British electricity provider, has been encouraging its customers to pay their bills online. However, their online payment form has been shut down after one customer told how he had accessed the private details of seven thousand customers.

John Chamberlain, speaking by telephone from Leicester, describes how he was able to access the names, addresses, telephone numbers and credit card details of thousands of customers.

I was amazed. I could not believe what I had stumbled across.

PowerGen say that John Chamberlain is an IT Consultant who deliberately tried to hack into their system. However, the fact that he was able to access the data raises questions about security on the internet.

Frank Cronin, CEO of the Internet Association of Ireland, argues that it is up to the companies themselves to make sure that the online service they offer is secure.

The future of the net is based on the consumer feeling confident with purchasing online.

Most secure websites carry a security symbol. In the UK, a new government backed scheme has been launched by the Consumer Association to police the internet on behalf of shoppers and make it a safe place to shop.

An RTÉ News reports on 19 July 2000. The reporter is Anthony Murnane.