For the first time since instituting its seal of approval for advertisers in 1909, Good Housekeeping's venerated consumer protection program has created a new review process-this time to vet the Internet.
Called Good Housekeeping Web Site Certification, the program judges potential advertisers' sites for good taste in products, ease of navigation and a clearly defined policy on privacy and cookie use. A site also cannot disable a back or home button or browser, meaning a user can close the site without additional screens or functions popping up.
Additionally, e-commerce sites must disclose the operators address, phone number and return policy, while also providing customer service contacts to obtain order status by telephone e-mail. Other criteria include prices clearly marked and refunds processed within 10 days. E-travel sites, meanwhile, must have clearly listed itineraries and cancellation policies.
"We look at the overall integrity of the site and ask whether a Good Housekeeping reader is going to be happy there," said Sean Sullivan, GH's associate publisher of marketing.
Nearly a year in the making, the Web certification is overseen by the Good Housekeeping Institute and has already signed off on a number of sites, including Beauty.com, JCPenney.com, living.com and L.L. Bean's llbean.com. According to Sullivan, 18 of these sites have also signed on to use the certification's emblem in their advertising, with San Francisco-based Hooked on Phonics becoming the first to use it by including it in an ad in the current issue of GH.
In addition to the certification program, GH has also created an affinity program for sites that qualify and choose to use the Web emblem in their own advertising. These sites will be listed and linked to a shopping directory as part of a Good Housekeeping Online Savings Mall set to launch June 1 on www.goodhousekeeping.com. According to Sullivan, mall users will save the transaction fee typically paid by sites to traffic drivers such as Yahoo!, which can then be refunded or given to charity.
Meanwhile, unlike the traditional seal, which promises to replace or refund defective products advertised in its pages, the Web site certification will not cover products sold online unless they separately qualify for the traditional seal.
"We are not warranty-ing the product," said Sullivan. "However, we do check the [site's] financial transaction security and make sure it's up to code."
Companies that sign up for certification must also agree to let GH work as a mediator between it and any consumer in a dispute, he said. Approved sites will be periodically re-evaluated by the Institute.
"The seal has always given consumers assurance to buy because we've checked it out," Sullivan said. "Now we're taking this to the next level, saying it's OK to shop this site because we've checked it out."
Jennifer Owens, ADWEEK. May 29, 2000
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