A lack of widely accepted transaction settlement procedures and resistance to change have hindered the proliferation of online business-to-business merchandise trading, according to an expo24hrs.net executive. Many business-to-business trading portals claim to have launched or be close to launching 'end-to-end' transactions solutions, encompassing the matching of buyers and sellers, contract signing, banking, shipping and insurance services. However, few if any are able to provide the full range of services online. 'End-to-end online buying and selling are all a lot of fluff,' said Thomas Ho, managing director of the start-up online exhibition service provider. 'There is still not a widely accepted settlement procedure out there.' Two online trading settlement solutions providers, United States-based Tradecard and Britain-based Bolero.net, are among companies trying to convince e-commerce firms to use their electronic transaction settlement solutions, which they hope will become de facto standards worldwide. But competition is not the only hurdle they face in their efforts to create global online trading communities. Mr Ho said many businesses were hesitant to put their core business transactions online. Such a move would fundamentally change their back-office operations and result in management headaches. He said expo24hrs.net had chosen to focus on providing meeting places in the form of virtual trade exhibitions for the trading community, holding off any plans to offer online transactional services. The portal sources its revenues mainly from fees charged on the design of 'virtual booths', or corporate product-showcase Web sites, and from monthly fees for which it will provide exhibitors information about interested potential buyers. Meanwhile, he said, transaction-based revenues such as commissions were still a long way from becoming major sources of income for trading portals, as 'user stickiness', or loyalty to trade online, was still questionable. 'At this stage of [the industry's] development, you cannot rely on commission income, unless you blind-fold the buyers and sellers. Otherwise they can always find ways to get around the system to trade offline and avoid the commission.' Other industry participants have argued that trading portals can improve user 'stickiness' by providing a platform that allows users to link their transaction records to their back-office functions such as accounting and shipping. Savings from such automation of back-office functions would more than offset the commissions they have to pay the trading portals.