The EU Internal Market is not doing as better as it should, as far as e-commerce is concerned. Consequently, consumers are stripped of the benefits of shopping online. As a response, at the end of May 2016, the EU Commission released a set of proposals to encourage cross border e-commerce within the EU.
Low cross-border consumer purchases
Only 15% of customers in the EU buy products from other EU Member States online. Despite the fact that this might seem quite astonishing, there are many reasons why a consumer would prefer choosing the “safer” way of purchasing the desired goods or services – domestically. There is no easier way of purchasing goods or services online than online. Those are delivered at your door within a couple of days and are bough with minimum efforts. Nevertheless, statistics show EU consumers still go for the old-fashioned way of either purchasing the products from shopping centers or a domestic online stores, rather than e-commerce shops.
Having considered that, apart from offering strong rights to consumers, the Commission has recently decided to address the three most significant obstacles to purchasing products via online shops in other countries. The first issue is the use of geo-blocking which restricts access to e-commerce content based upon the user’s geographical location. The second issue is the high price for cross-border deliveries. The third issue is the lack of customer trust in online shops from other Member States, due to the lack of public enforcement of e-commerce regulations in the EU.
The EU Response
As a response to those problems, the EU Commission has offered:
• legislation, which is to address and forbid unjustified restrictions of customer’s access to certain online content on the grounds of nationality, residence or establishment;
• legislation, which is to lower the price of cross-border parcel delivery services and which is to increase the transparency of delivery prices;
• a legislative proposal aiming to improve reliance on EU consumer protection law, while strengthening its enforcement. The idea of the commission is to coordinate a common position between national authorities on the question: “What are unfair commercial practices in the digital world?”. This aims to increase the consumers’ security and predictability when purchasing goods or services online from another EU Member State.
Benefits to Consumers
Customers should have more trust in the common EU system, so that they are able to purchase goods and services online from other EU countries freely. Cross-border e-commerce offers customers the benefit of having more choices and cheaper prices. When selling abroad, both big and small companies are able to reach a much wider customer base. Evidently, there are still many obstacles when it comes to purchasing products from foreign online shops. It is however obvious that a future e-commerce single market would strengthen the internal market, stimulate competition in the EU and offer consumers the many benefits of EU-wide online shopping.