A study in 2014 showed that more than a quarter of online shoppers in the EU had already shopped online in another EU country and that these numbers continued to increase. The European Commission wants to make cross border e-commerce easier for both consumers and sellers.
There is still a long way to go: many shoppers are afraid to shop across the borders, because they are worried they don’t get the goods or need to put way too much effort in returning the products if they don’t like them. Even if the shoppers overcome their fear, there is a chance that they can’t place their order due to geo-blocking*. In March this year, the European Commission published a report about geo-blocking practices in e-commerce. Geo-blocking mainly takes the form of a refusal to deliver abroad. Refusals to accept payment, and, to a lesser extent, re-routing and website access blocks are also used. While a majority of such geo-blocking results from unilateral business decisions of retailers, geo-blocking may also stem from contractual restrictions in agreements between retailers and suppliers.
In order to counter this geo-blocking and create a more open e-commerce market, European Member States now agreed on the European Commissions’ proposal to no longer permit geo-blocking. The European Commission now wants to speed the work with the Parliament to find an agreement under the upcoming EU presidency.
Vice President Angus Ansip sees this as a step towards creating a Single Market, which means regulatory walls are broken down in order to move from 28 national markets to one single one. The European Commission has now presented a plan that consists of three parts.
The European Commission will also propose simplified EU tax rules to help businesses, especially the smaller ones, to sell online across borders. “This will remove another major barrier in e-commerce and the EU, and will get us closer to a Digital Single Market”, Ansip said.
*Preventing a consumer to purchase consumer goods and accessing digital content online from a certain country