Is Ecommerce Moving Towards a Single, Fair Market ?


In 2016, the European Commission proposed several new measures to improve ecommerce between online retailers and online shoppers across Europe. The Commission reviewed the fight against geo-blocking, and facilitating delivery across Europe, making cross-border delivery more accessible. 

Moving Towards a Borderless Market

According to RetailMeNot, in 2016, over 16% of online sales in Europe were conducted on foreign sites. Cross-border barriers are progressively being knocked down in favour of a unified ecommerce market, which is dominated by the UK, France and Germany. Cross-border sales are now an integral part of European buying habits, and online shoppers no longer limit themselves to their domestic market for making purchases, but continue to widen their product searches on an international scale. Going cross-border gives consumers access to a greater choice of brands and services, while allowing them to compare prices and select the most attractive offers.

Putting an end to Geo-Blocking in Ecommerce

This context led to the European Commission releasing a statement that they will put an end to geo-blocking, which currently directs online shoppers to different landing pages according to the country that they are in. Often, this geo-blocking means that consumers have no access to certain items, are sold products at different prices or even with different payment terms. Through this plan, the Commission hopes to allow European internet users to be treated equally regardless of their location and enjoy the same conditions as online consumers in other countries.

 “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” – Andrus Ansip, Vice President for the Digital Single Market

Making Delivery and Logistics More Accessible

In addition to putting an end to geo-blocking, the European Commission has also been tackling the management of cross-border logistics (delivery and returns) which continues to be a big obstacle in the ecommerce industry. Brussels proposes a draft regulation aimed at “increasing the transparency of prices and improving regulatory oversight”.

 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. – Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The Commission is not making it compulsory for online retailers to deliver throughout the European Union, although they are advised to use world-renowned suppliers in order to guarantee a successful cross-border strategy.

Note: The European Commission has not set a price cap on delivery.

This measure was approved by member states and the European Union, with the exception of Poland, Austria and Luxembourg last November. It is yet to be debated in European Parliament.

While this can raise alarm bells for online retailers who will see an increase in competition in the market and are required to be easily adaptable for the entire European landscape, it also allows retailers to launch on new markets and increase their sales potential. It’s a great opportunity to target a wider audience of consumers, allowing them to benefit from the best offers on the entire European market.

Source : Commission européenne, LSA, EcommerceMag, Conseil européen

Chanju Mwanza

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