EC looks to boost e-commerce with “more affordable cross-border parcel delivery”
The European Commission (EC) has today (25 May) tabled a package of measures aimed at boosting e-commerce across the European Union (EU). The EC said that its “three-pronged plan” focuses on: tackling geoblocking; making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient; and promoting customer trust through better protection and enforcement.
Commenting on the new plans, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “All too often people are blocked from accessing the best offers when shopping online or decide not to buy cross-border because the delivery prices are too high or they are worried about how to claim their rights if something goes wrong. We want to solve the problems that are preventing consumers and businesses from fully enjoying the opportunities of buying and selling products and services online.”
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, added: “With clearer rules, better enforcement and more affordable cross-border parcel delivery, it will be easier for consumers and companies, especially SMEs, to make the most of the EU Single Market and the cross-border e-commerce.”
In a statement posted on its Europa website, the EC claimed that the regulation proposed today will “increase price transparency and regulatory oversight of cross-border parcel delivery services so that consumers and retailers can benefit from affordable deliveries and convenient return options even to and from peripheral regions”.
The EC statement continued: “Consumers and small businesses complain that problems with parcel delivery, in particular high delivery charges in cross-border shippings, prevent them from selling or buying more across the EU. Prices charged by postal operators to deliver a small parcel to another Member State are often up to five times higher than domestic prices, without a clear correlation to the actual costs.
“The Regulation will foster competition by introducing greater price transparency. The Commission is not proposing a cap on delivery prices. Price regulation is only a means of last resort, where competition does not bring satisfactory results. The Commission will take stock of progress made in 2019 and assess if further measures are necessary.
“The Regulation will give national postal regulators the data they need to monitor cross-border markets and check the affordability and cost-orientation of prices. It will also encourage competition by requiring transparent and non-discriminatory third-party access to cross-border parcel delivery services and infrastructure. The Commission will publish public listed prices of universal service providers to increase peer competition and tariff transparency.
“The proposal complements self-regulatory initiatives taken by postal operators to improve the quality and convenience of cross-border parcel delivery services.”
Commenting on the EC proposals, Jean-Paul Forceville, Chairman of PostEurop – which represents national postal operators across Europe – said: “We support the European Commission’s work to develop the European digital single market. We have been working very closely with the European Commission and have implemented successful changes to enhance customer experience: e-retailers and end-consumers now enjoy enhanced interoperability, harmonised labelling across Europe, Track&Trace systems for parcels, more choices of delivery, and better return options.”
However, in a statement sent to Post&Parcel today, PostEurop cautioned that cross-border parcel pricing is a complex issue: “In the e-commerce market, parcel prices for e-retailers are mainly driven by several cost elements, market conditions and competition, as well as the destination country or region in the case of cross-border. The distance between the warehouse of the e-retailer and the end-consumer’s address matters less in comparison.”
PostEurop also flagged up research by Copenhagen Economics which showed that nearly half of e-retailers charge consumers more than they pay delivery operators, with the remainder evenly split between charging the same amount as they pay and charging less. So the charge is ultimately based on commercial decisions made by the e-retailers, not the national post operators.
PostEurop added: “National postal operators welcome the proposal to publish public list prices. However, the Commission also demands that national postal operators share a vast amount of confidential commercial data with national regulators for a yearly affordability assessment of parcel prices. It also obliges national postal operators to grant full access to their delivery networks – with very few conditions – to third party operators.
“These last two proposed measures [affordability assessment and third-party access to delivery networks] are disproportionate to the Commission’s objective. They go in the direction of price regulation and fail to reflect market conditions.
“Competition is fierce on the parcel delivery market – at home and abroad – with low barriers to entry and we operate in a highly regulated environment already. The EU has plenty of tools (competition, infringement) at its disposal to address inappropriate practices – if indeed they occur at all.”