EU to investigate cross-border e-commerce delivery market

The European Commission announced plans yesterday to press for a “single digital market” in Europe, to double e-commerce volumes by 2015 by breaking down barriers to cross-border web-based purchases among the 27 EU nations. The Commission, the executive branch of European Union government, issued a Communication yesterday launching 16 initiatives to find ways around major obstacles to EU cross-border e-commerce, including delivery difficulties.

Among its plans, it is planning a consultation in 2012 on parcels delivery, focusing on cross-border issues, to seek solutions to the current delivery problems faced by businesses and consumers.

The Commission promised to report its conclusions from the consultation in a green paper by the end of this year.

The three main issues to be covered in the paper will be price of services, quality of services and availability of relevant information about deliveries and alternative providers, particularly for individuals and small businesses.

As Post&Parcel reported yesterday, research it has commissioned suggests that some national postal services are charging too much to deliver parcels coming in from abroad, while there are also other delivery issues knocking the confidence of European consumers in making purchases from foreign websites.

The Communication stated that payment and delivery systems were “still inadequate” for e-commerce across Europe, with studies suggesting almost a quarter of those shopping across EU borders have experienced problems.

Half of all consumers state that they are not interested in making a cross-border transaction because of worries about delivery, according to Eurobarometer figures.

The move to open up e-commerce markets to better competition within Europe ties in with the EU’s postal directive, liberalising postal markets in EU Member States, and also its work to prevent abuse of dominant positions for the major players in each EU postal market and in the e-commerce market as a whole.

Jobs

The Commission believes online commerce creates 2.6 new jobs for every job lost in the brick-and-mortar retail industry it replaces, but the Internet as a whole currently accounts for just 3% of the EU economy, while only 3.4% of all products and services in Europe are sold via the web.

It is currently drawing up a roadmap for achieving a single internal digital market by 2015, which is to be presented to the EU Council, the body comprising heads of EU Member States. The Commission is also to hold a summit on the development of e-commerce in 2013.

Neelie Kroes, Digital Agenda vice president of the European Commission, said the global e-commerce market was currently valued in the region of six trillion dollars, and that 200m Europeans are currently shopping online.

Moving to a single digital market would mean easier, more trustworthy and transparent online commerce, she said.

“This will benefit the consumer, but also the businesses that supply online products and services. They will be able to benefit from a Digital Single Market, instead of operating in one of 27 local markets,” said Kroes to reporters yesterday.

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