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Internet-based holiday sales were up 300 percent over figures from a year ago, according to preliminary results of a study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group. The survey of 30 online retailers also found the number of orders placed online rose 270 percent between Nov. 20 and Dec. 19. The average online purchase was up 8 percent, from about $55.50 to $60. In exchange for getting retailers to disclose their earnings, the authors of the study agreed not to identify them. But researchers said the retailers represented a cross section of online businesses - from cosmetics to electronics. Actual sales figures won't be available until after the first quarter of the new year.

A case originally brought by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. policyholders in 1995 has ended in Pittsburgh, with a federal judge approving a $1.7 billion settlement. According to a customers' attorney, as many as 6 million people could benefit from the accord. The lawsuit alleged that customers during the mid-1980s were persuaded to boost their insurance coverage beyond what they needed.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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