Ladies and gentlemen
It is a pleasure to be with you today. Thank you for inviting me.
When people think of the Digital Single Market, postal services are probably not the first idea that comes into their heads.
But maybe they should, with so many people buying and selling online today.
While parcel delivery is a physical thing, it is the last link in the e-commerce chain.
I know that you have invested in modernising infrastructure and services to improve cross-border delivery. I welcome this development very much.
Through the Interconnect programme you have also contributed to making the cross-border delivery less burdensome for retailers and consumers, whether choosing where to collect your parcel from or making returning products easier.
Innovation is as important as ever in the postal sector and your efforts are valued highly. It is clear that for the postal services to thrive you should be able to propose to customers the services they want.
On the Commission's side we want now to make sure that Europe's economy and consumers get the most out of the Digital Single Market.
For the DSM to work properly, barriers to cross-border online activity have to be removed. That will lead to more e-commerce.
Getting smooth, affordable and reliable delivery of goods bought online is a key part of that. It would in turn benefit postal operators.
Online shopping used to be thought of as a novelty. Today, it is a fact of life: one of our many daily conveniences.
With online stores usually available 24 hours a day, you can shop from home without waiting for a store to open - whether you buy shoes, books, groceries or airline tickets.
Online shopping has come a long way since the first secure retail transaction over the web was made a little more than 20 years ago.
E-commerce has become the fastest growing retail spending market in Europe. Last year, 65% of internet users in the EU shopped online.
With this rapid development, e-shoppers as well as e-retailers have become more demanding about how the goods that they buy online are delivered.
How often do people spot a great online bargain – and then find the cash savings are wiped out by the cost of getting it delivered?
According to the Online Mystery Shopping Survey, 2 % of potential shoppers could not access the websites they would have liked to.
Out of the remaining who could access the webpage, 27% could not register according to the requirements of the webpage. 32% among those who registered had difficulties with parcel deliveries. Among those who still could continue with their shopping, 26% could not pay.
So all in all, only 36.6% of customers who had in intention of online shopping could actually go through with it.
We are working on these issues through several proposals related to e-commerce. One of them, and the most important one for today's discussions, is the upcoming proposal on parcel delivery.
High shipping costs are a particular deterrent for online buyers and sellers, especially for individuals and smaller companies who deal in low volumes.
Parcel delivery prices vary a great deal for parcel delivery between different EU countries. In too many cases, public prices of cross-border parcel delivery are disproportionately higher than the equivalent domestic prices.
Even though parcel networks and logistics are complex, this is hard to explain – or justify – on the grounds of higher underlying costs.
Ladies and gentlemen: building consumer trust in cross-border online sales requires affordable and high-quality cross-border parcel delivery services.
This would allow e-commerce to grow much faster. Consumers and retailers would benefit.
Customers would get a better service, more choice – and probably buy more too.
Retailers would also do better – because cheaper and more transparent pricing would encourage more companies to sell online.
Every year, almost 4 billion parcels are ordered online and delivered in the EU. The potential for e-commerce, however, is far greater: while 44% of consumers buy online in their own country, only 15% order online from another country.
Next week, we will propose a regulation that will:
- allow national regulators to get a better overview of the parcels market;
- increase transparency of prices, and;
- make it easier for new operators to access the market.
Just to be clear:
- we will not regulate parcel delivery prices;
- the administrative burden for postal companies will be kept to a minimum.
We want to tackle price affordability by stimulating competition. But for competition to develop fairly and efficiently, everyone involved in the market first needs to enjoy a certain degree of price transparency: retailers, delivery operators as well as consumers.
That is how the Commission aims to make parcel delivery more efficient, affordable, transparent and reliable.
But we are working on also other issues related to online shopping. Our plans to improve parcel delivery services are a key part of a wider package to develop the untapped potential of cross-border e-commerce.
The other proposals are all necessary for achieving this goal.
They are interlinked; they complement each other; they have a stronger effect when put together as a package.
We intend to tackle unjustified geo-blocking, which would allow SMEs to sell to customers from other Member States without regulatory risks.
I want to help industry, help consumers and tackle discrimination.
Our proposal would not stop providers of music streaming services – for example – from offering different services in different European markets.
There is no need to have a single price everywhere – and neither for parcel delivery. Providers should be free to set they prices that they want.
Industry will gain from what we propose. Consumers will get more choice, which in turn leads to more digital business – and more parcels delivered too.
This is about creating a single market in the digital age.
Our geo-blocking proposal should be designed to mirror the scope of the services directive, which requires the EU to abolish discriminatory requirements such as nationality or residence.
But measures to achieve this goal will not be fully effective unless they go hand-in-hand with better enforcement, more competitively priced parcel delivery, better aligned contract law rules and simplification of VAT.
Taken as a whole, the e-commerce package that we will present next week will make sure that consumers and businesses get better value and more choice of online goods and services across all of the European Union.
That means: no more barriers that discourage companies from cross-border trading and prevent people from getting the most competitive offers and full online offers.
It means: cutting transaction costs and administrative burden for online businesses when they trade across borders.
And it means: giving people and businesses better access to goods and services offered online across Europe.
I have no illusions. This will be an uphill struggle. It will be difficult - and it will take time.
Let us work together to optimise parcel delivery services so that they help all Europeans to get the most - and best - from online trading in the digital age.