Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

WEB ASSURANCE SEALS - ARE THEY ALL ALIKE?: A LOOK AT WebTrust AND OTHER WEB ASSURANCE SEALS

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

WEB ASSURANCE SEALS - ARE THEY ALL ALIKE?: A LOOK AT WebTrust AND OTHER WEB ASSURANCE SEALS

Article excerpt

CASE DESCRIPTION

The primary subject matter of this case concerns the CPA's requirements and responsibilities for performing a WebTrust attestation service engagement. Additionally, this case provides a framework for discussion on the control issues with information systems. This case has a difficulty level of three, appropriate for junior-level courses. This case is designed to be taught in one class hour and is expected to require ten hours of outside preparation by students.

CASE SYNOPSIS

Patricia Greene, CPA is approached by Bill Miller, president of E-commerce.com, who is inquiring about web assurance seals. Mr. Miller wants to know what web seal programs are available and what requirements does his company have to meet to display a seal on its website. Ms. Greene, CPA has the task of identifying and comparing the various web seal programs. Additionally, she needs to investigate the requirements and responsibilities for performing a WebTrust engagement. Finally, she needs to communicate her findings to Mr. Miller.

INTRODUCTION

Bill Miller, president of E-commerce.com is concerned about his revenue stream. Ecommerce.com' s revenues are below what had been forecasted. Mr. Miller conducts business that can be categorized as both retail business-to-business (B2B) and retail business-to-consumers (B2C). Therefore, Mr. Miller decides to meet with Patricia Greene, CPA to obtain advice on ways to improve his revenues. Ms. Greene has not had previous business dealings with Mr. Miller or his company, E-commerce.com. Ms. Greene is aware of WebTrust, but does not know what the specific responsibilities and requirements are of this type of engagement. She informs Mr. Miller that ecommerce-based businesses have begun to display web assurance seals on their websites. The web seal programs are supposedly oriented to give e-commerce consumers a sense of confidence that when they deal with Internet merchants that the consumer's personal data will be handled in a secure and confidential manner. She tells him about the WebTrust seal offered by the AICPA. Mr. Miller asks Ms. Greene to provide him with information on alternative web assurance seals. Specifically, he wants to know what web assurance seals are available and what requirements does his company, E-commerce.com, have to meet to be able to display a seal on its website. Additionally, he wants to know if web seal programs are all alike. Ms. Greene tells Mr. Miller that she will provide this information to him.

Between her own background and the technical support available through the staff in her office, Ms. Greene knows that she has the technical competence to evaluate the internal controls over financial reporting. However, she has never personally performed an engagement on web seal programs and needs to know the technical skills required for such an engagement. To undertake this task, Ms. Greene designed a four step process:

* Step 1 : In the first step, she does some background research and investigates what types of assurances merchants should be giving to e-commerce consumers. She builds a short questionnaire that she will use to evaluate the different merchants she intends to review. She goes to the websites of many merchants and analyzes the customer security and privacy statements posted on the commercial websites. She also observes what type(s) of web assurance seals were found on those web sites. Her purpose is to see how comprehensive the stated customer policies are for many merchants and whether better policies are associated with specific web seal programs.

* Step 2: In the second step, using the background she had already developed on the types of assurances merchants should be giving to consumers, Ms. Greene builds another questionnaire aimed at investigating the different web seal programs themselves. Ms. Greene selects a few of the most commonly found web seals and goes to their websites. Her purpose is twofold: (1) to find out how comprehensive the web seal program is at providing a full set of consumer assurances; and (2) to find out how difficult it is for a merchant to obtain, display, and renew the web seal. …

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