Shoppers blocked from buying across EU borders

Shoppers blocked from buying across EU borders

Summary: The European Commission calls for more progress on simplifying cross-border online shopping, after its study shows that 60 percent transactions cannot be completed

TOPICS: Tech Industry

The European Commission has called for more progress to be made on simplifying cross-border online shopping, after its research found that 6 out of 10 shoppers who tried to make purchases from another country had the transaction blocked.

Maglena Kuneva, the European commissioner for consumer affairs, pointed to language problems, regulatory barriers to business and a lack of trust on the part of consumers as factors holding back cross-border shopping.

"As we stand today, we cannot shop cross-border online within the EU. There is no European retail market online, but instead 27 inefficient mini-markets. We have the technology for a big market but not the trade. And this is generating a lot of frustration among European citizens who expect and deserve better," Kuneva said in a speech accompanying the release of the EC study on Wednesday.

An extensive mystery shopping exercise was carried out for the study, where shoppers from across the EU's 27 member states tried purchase 100 popular products. A total of 10,964 individual tests were carried out, which found that in all but two countries, the odds of completing a successful cross-border purchase were less than 50 percent.

The EC report said that 60 percent of the inter-European transactions could not be completed because the trader did not have the means to offer cross-border payment or did not ship the product to the consumer's country. For computer and electronic equipment, the blockage rate was 80 percent.

"The results of this research are very striking," Kuneva said. "We now have concrete facts and figures showing the extent to which the European single market for consumers is just not happening in online retail," said Kuneva. "Shoppers are still largely confined within national borders."

Kuneva said that although 50 percent of European traders have an online outlet, only 21 percent of traders sell at a distance across borders. In addition, only 7 percent of Europeans shop online across borders.

As part of its strategy to tackle the barriers, the Commission has encouraged online businesses to create multi-country or pan-EU websites and to adopt domain names ending in .eu. According to the Commission, major search engines and price comparison websites are more likely to offer search rankings or price comparisons that represent cross-border or domestic offers.

The EU has also tabled a proposal targeting the retail of electrical goods, which are among the highest in demand online. The proposal aims to harmonise the rules on waste electrical and electronic equipment (the WEEE Directive) and reduce the administrative burden, which would allow online retailers to register in one country for their activity in the entire EU, instead of having to register in each country separately.

Under its strategy, the EU also plans to end the fragmentation of European consumer laws by imposing a set of EU-wide rules. It also hopes to simplify VAT and copyright regulations, improve cross-border payment systems and clamp down on unfair commercial practices.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • This will be..

    Good when it all gets sorted out, give us all a lot more choice and better competition on the prices of goods.
  • Shipping is expensive across borders

    I am in Greece where many items are more expensive but savings are often cancelled by very high shipping charges. Where postal service is used, delivery times are in weeks rather than days.
  • Tim

    Even if they dont stop you shopping I have found that retailers make it uneconomical by charging ridiculous delivery charges.
  • Yeah..

    I recently read some place about how Amazon amongst others have being charging for delivery services on a per item basis as you know for years, but according to the story they have a partner company that handles all the delivery's for them.

    Apparently the story goes a guy who works for the said partner company came forward and said he couldn't understand why Amazon where doing this, because the company he worked for did it for them.

    The only thing I can draw from that statement is that maybe Amazon pay this other company a annual set contract fee for this service, there's not really a lot there to go on but given how deliver most of their goods for free and still remain very competitive they must be something to this.

    But I wouldn't at all be surprised if we where being deliberately ripped off by such company's.
  • Same...

    We are facing the same problem like in mobile communications.
    Why are we treating Vodafone, Orange, O2 and the same like national companies and not as European companies? Roaming in Europe? Stupid... In fact You can travel from Athens to London and be always under Vodafone or Orange cover all the way. So? why pay more. Just because they want to. Pleeeeeeease...

    The shipping and postal services are in the same category.

    My solution is a little radical... Lets make an European postal service... Same price in al EU. Already, on paper, there is no border for merchandise. So what is the problem? Eh the bosses of the national postal services, the ministers and the national parliaments are the problem. Sack them!!! They will demonstrate that having a single EU postal service is undermining our national identities. Phhhh there are only letters and parcels not national treasures...