EC consults on low take-up of e-commerce
Wants more cross-border trade
The European Commission has asked retailers, governments, telecoms companies and the public to help it to understand why e-commerce has had such a limited effect on trade in Europe.
The Commission has launched a consultation process aimed at understanding why, 10 years after the E-Commerce Directive was passed, e-commerce retail represents only a tiny fraction of Europe's retail business.
"The European Commission wishes to study in detail the various reasons for the limited takeoff of electronic commerce ... and evaluate the implementation of the [E-Commerce] Directive," said the Commission's call for responses.
The Commission wants to hear the views of policy makers, businesses and the public on issues such as contractual restrictions on cross-border online sales and whether interpretation of the law on the liability of online service providers is hindering trade.
"Electronic commerce constitutes an important means to promote cross-border trade, improving the accessibility of Europe's population to more varied products, to more qualitative products, and exerting greater price competition in the on-line and off-line world," said the consultation. "However, 10 years after the adoption of the [E-Commerce Directive], the development of retail electronic commerce remains limited to less than 2% of European total retail trade."
Since the current Commission took office this year it has promoted a digital agenda which it hopes will solve some of the problems facing online businesses in the EU. That plan involves 100 actions, 31 of which will involve changing EU law, the Commission said earlier this year.
One of the aims of that agenda is improving the market for cross-border online commerce. It published a green paper last month outlining changes it planned to make to contract law in Europe to encourage consumers to buy goods and services from traders in other EU countries.
"Only 8% of consumers buy online from another member state," said a Commission statement announcing the consultation on those changes. "In addition, 61% of cross-border sales are rejected because traders refuse to serve the consumer's country. This is largely due to regulatory barriers and legal uncertainty about the applicable rules."
"I want a Polish, German or Spanish consumer to feel as safe when doing business with an Italian, Finnish or French company online as when they are at home," said Viviane Reding, the Justice Commissioner. "And I want Europe's small and medium-sized companies to offer their products and services to consumers in other countries without having to become experts in the national contract law systems of all other 26 EU countries."
The Commission has proposed creating a 28th contract regime that traders and consumers could use, rather than use the contract law of one of the EU's 27 member states.
The Commission's consultation on the E-Commerce Directive is open until 15 October.
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The EC really does live on another planet
There are so many reasons why cross-border commerce is never going to be a big deal, at least at retail level. For one thing most shops across Europe sell the same things for the same prices, you rarely get a better range of options or a better price by shopping in the French or German online versions of Argos, or Currys, or Tesco. Those companies which do understand EU-wide demand just open physical shops across the EU. There are branches of Decathlon (French) in the UK, Tesco (British) everywhere, etc.
It is also limited, in my experience, by shipping costs and VAT confusion. Why pay £20 shipping to get something from Germany if I can buy almost the same thing locally?
As for downloadable things like music, the rights issues mean that it's well-nigh impossible to buy from another country. Ever tried to use iTunes.co.uk from France, or Amazon.com from the UK? They just don't want to know unless your credit card has a billing address in the country of "delivery".
This is just another example of the EC assuming that if it's EU-wide it must be better. They really are completely out of touch with reality, and have no clue about how ordinary people spend their lives, or their cash.
If they *really* want to do something usefully EU-wide, what about sorting out pension schemes so that pensions can be transported between companies across borders, or fixing media management rules so that an expat can sign up for his/her home satellite TV or radio? Or maybe they could just all resign and let us get on with our lives without paying even more taxes to subsidise their irrelevant, self-satisfied, heads-up-their-own-arses activites.
What's more is that we pay these unelected pricks.
Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time in Italy good luck with dragging the Italians into the 21st century. My experience centres mainly with (trying) to buy IT equipment, many Italian companies require you to log in or create a customer account before you can even SEE what it is they are selling, let alone make price comparisons. My suspicion is that they tailor the price to your profile. Inflated prices coupled with refusal to accept foriegn credit cards, useless delivery couriers, and non existent customer service means that mostly the best way to do it is buy cheaply in the UK and import it yourself. (I'm sure this doesn't apply to ALL italian companies) but it seemingly does to most. Also this criticism is not just limited to the IT sector as I've experienced these problems with most businesses here.