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Consumers (11-03-2011)

Consumer Scoreboard shows recovery in consumer conditions, finds cross-border shopping trusted more once tried

The spring Consumer Scoreboard published today by the European Commission shows a clear recovery in consumer conditions in nearly all EU countries after the steep decline in 2009.

The Consumer Scoreboard provides evidence and alerts about how the single market is performing for EU consumers in terms of choice, prices and satisfaction.

The spring edition ('Consumer Conditions Scoreboard') looks at the integration of the retail market and national conditions for consumers.

Progress in national consumer conditions

The Consumer Conditions Index is defined by factors such as the effectiveness of resolving disputes and handling complaints, consumer trust in authorities, retailers, advertisers and consumer organisations, and the quality of regulations.

The 2010 index reveals that consumer conditions have rebounded after the sharp fall in 2009, with most countries matching or exceeding 2008 levels.

The top countries with the best conditions are the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Sweden, all of which are also above the EU average.

The e-commerce gap

The Scoreboard shows continued growth of domestic e-commerce, with 36% of EU consumers having shopped online from national sellers in 2010 (34% in 2009).

However, cross-border e-commerce continues to grow at a sluggish pace (9% in 2010, compared with 8% in 2009), despite clear benefits in terms of savings and choice as evidenced in earlier studies.

Consumer perceptions v. experience

Consumers' perceptions seem to be a major barrier to cross-border e-commerce.

Among consumers who have not made a cross-border distance purchase:

  • 62% are worried about fraud and scams;
  • 59% cite concerns about what to do when problems arise;
  • 49% are put off by expected deliveryproblems.

However, these concerns are much less widespread among consumers who have actually shopped cross-border (34%, 30% and 20% respectively).

Cross-border e-commerce appears to be at least as reliable as domestic e-commerce or even more:

  • only 16% of cross-border purchases were delayed (18% for domestic purchases);
  • the product did not arrive in 5% of cross-border cases (6% for domestic purchases).

Major obstacles to cross-border e-commerce are found on the supply side

The proportion of retailers selling to other EU countries fell to22% in 2010 (25% in 2009), even though the rewards for cross-border commerce are significant: 56% estimate than more than 10% of their e-commerce sales come from other EU countries.

The Commission is pursuing a strategy to end market fragmentation, including through the recent Single Market Act.

Full Scoreboard: