British shoppers buy more products online and spend more money than internet users in any other European country, a report suggested yesterday.
The communications regulator Ofcom said that UK consumers spent an average of £1,031 between June and November last year – nearly double that spent in next-placed Germany.
In its wide-ranging International Communications Market Report, Ofcom said no single factor could explain the popularity of online shopping in Britain. It added: "It is likely that the early launch of Amazon in the UK in 1998, the historic popularity of catalogue shopping, high penetration of credit cards and the willingness of UK consumers to trust online payment all contributed."
Ofcom said communications revenues in Britain had remained flat at £39bn in 2009 for the first time in five years, because of the recession. It pointed out that there was "an increasing consensus that UK consumers are early adopters of technology" but the country was in danger of being left behind because of infrastructure problems.
The take-up of "superfast" broadband in Britain – at 0.2 per cent of the population – is among the lowest in Europe and compares with 1.1 per cent in France and 7.1 per cent in the US. Ed Richards, the chief executive of Ofcom, said the issue was "challenging" but that proposals to widen that coverage to 66 per cent by 2015 "compared well with other countries". "We are not where we want to be," he admitted.
Mr Richards said there had been no problem with mobile data so far, but the industry had to push ahead with auctioning the new spectrum that will allow operators to offer faster speeds. The UK lags behind on superfast mobile networks, with average speeds of 7.2Mb;Germany offers 28Mb and the US 30Mb. However, Britain is among the leaders for broadband take-up, at 70 per cent of users, and the second highest number of mobile broadband connections behind Sweden.