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Proposals to encourage more online commerce would make it easier to shop on the Internet across the EU – contributing to economic growth and job creation.

Electronic commerce offers many potential benefits for consumers and businesses: lower prices, increased access to goods, development of innovative services and creation of new jobs.

Online purchases account for about 3% of all retail business in the EU, but many barriers remain to the further development of a seamless Internet marketplace across its 27 member countries.

For example, the rules governing online sales are often ignored or unclear, sites do not provide enough information for consumers, and it can be difficult to compare prices.

Such problems can turn consumers away from shopping online, despite the potential savings (currently estimated at around €11.7bn annually for purchases of goods). More people could benefit if there were a safer, more open Internet marketplace.

The Commission is proposing 16 measures aiming to double online retail sales by 2015 by providing better protection for consumers, more information and a wider range of choices.

The new proposals would:

  • make it easier to buy products and services online (including music and films)
  • ensure more efficient, affordable delivery of products across Europe
  • require online sellers to provide more information about their products and prices
  • help develop high-speed Internet services and better communications infrastructure, so more people enjoy access, especially in rural and remote areas
  • provide consumers with better information and protection against abuses on the Internet.

Businesses would also benefit from the measures, encouraging them to invest in online sales and services. For example, the proposals aim to prevent illegal downloading of copyrighted content (such as films and music) and establish a clear legal framework for doing business online.

The proposals complement the EU’s electronic commerce law, which sets out common rules for cross-border online sales.

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