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Monday, November 5, 2001

Net shopping ruining marriages
Tracy McVeigh and Amelia Hill

THE addictive pull of the Internet shopping is dragging thousands of victims into a spiral of debt, including thousands of women who have run up huge credit card bills they cannot repay.

The lure of 24-hour access and the explosion in goods and services on offer has seen a 10 per cent increase in credit card debts in the UK this year.

Much of it has been attributed to online spending. The latest report on the Internet usage shows the number of adults logging on at home has risen from 10 million in October last years to 15.5 million this month.

The report by Continental Research, which has monitored the Internet access in the UK for the past six years, found that while online shopping used to be experimental it is now becoming habitual, especially for women.


Colin Shaddick, who heads the company, said: ‘Women are logging on in record numbers — online shopping has certainly played a big role in this.’ The study found that average annual spending online is US dollars 1,000 a year for each Internet shopper.

The draw of the Internet is especially strong for collectors. Business lecturer Stephen Hall, who has been buying and selling books since he was a child, now has a collection worth $ 55,000. He is passionate about the opportunities offered by shopping online. ‘You can find a book in minutes that you could spend months hunting down at auctions or second-hand bookshops,’ he said.

‘It can easily become addictive, and all collectors I know use the Internet. I suspect you do waste money because you are less likely to send back a book to Little Rock, Arkansas, than take it back to the high-street shop.’

For those susceptible to shopping addiction, the Internet provides an easy, anonymous and accessible way to feed their habit. It also provides secrecy — a central part of any addiction. Dr Samantha Haylett, a psychologist and expert in addiction at the Promis counselling centre, said: ‘It’s compulsive in the same way as alcohol and gambling, and addicts find themselves completely unable to stop themselves, despite debt mounting and relationships disintegrating. It’s the thrill and the buzz of purchasing that overrides all the negative consequences.

‘People snigger at shopping addictions, but it’s the same as food bingeing: bulimics don’t eat nice stuff, or things that are good for them. Shopping addicts are the same: they’ll buy things they don’t need or want or like. What they’re buying is of no importance compared to the thrill they get spending money and acquiring something new.

‘I’ve counselled persons who have bought piles of bed linen and curtains and just left them piled up in the corner of the room.

‘I have seen people’s marriages ruined. There’s something more damaging about Internet shopping too because it takes place in the home, so the deceit and secrecy is that much closer to the partner who is being deceived.’

Tennis star Serena Williams this year admitted to kicking an Internet shopping addiction that saw her spending up to six hours a day online in an attempt to avoid being seen out in public. ‘Every day I was in my room and I was online,’ Williams said. ‘I wasn’t able to stop and I bought, bought, bought. I was just out of control.’

Confidence is also growing in online security. Danny Meadows-Klue, chairman of Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Internet commercial watchdog, said:

‘Online card fraud is a drop in the ocean compared to total credit card fraud, but it is increasing. We want to increase consumer confidence by encouraging shoppers to take simple steps to protect themselves.’ But there are still barriers to online shopping, declares James Goudie, a consumer psychologist at Northumbria University. ‘For certain items some people prefer to shop personally, for example to try on an item of clothing and feel the quality. Payment of delivery charges is also off-putting.’

— Observer News Service



Samsung to double chip production

SAMSUNG Electronics last week shrugged off concerns about the global drop in memory chip prices, saying it will complete a chip upgrade by 2003 that allows it to more than double output.

Hwang Chang-gyu, president of Samsung Electronics' memory chip division, displays a 300mm wafer in Seoul.
Hwang Chang-gyu, president of Samsung Electronics' memory chip division, displays a 300mm wafer in Seoul.

The world’s largest memory chipmaker said the upgrade -producing chips on 30-centimeter (12-inch) silicon wafers instead of the current 20-centimeter (8-inch) wafers - will cut production costs. It did not disclose details.

"We don’t mean to increase production right away. We are laying the foundation for expansion when chip prices rebound," said Chung Deuk-si, a Samsung spokesman told AP. Due to the global slump in chip demand, Samsung said last week that its semiconductor business lost 380 billion won ($292 million) in the third quarter, the first deficit since 1987.

But Hwang Chang-gyu, president of Samsung’s memory chip division, predicted that chip prices would rebound next year. A 128-megabit dynamic random access memory chip is currently sold at $1, down from $10 from a year ago.Hwang anticipated a $500 billion memory chip market in 2005, with Samsung controlling 40 per cent of the market. Samsung’s share of the global chip market was 20 per cent last year.