The value of e-commerce in the EU is growing, but its full potential still remains untapped. Only 15% of consumers buy online from another EU country and 8% of companies sell cross-border. As part of its efforts to unlock the potential of e-commerce, the Commission has adopted a package of proposals to stop unjustified geo-blocking, increase the transparency of parcel delivery prices and improve the enforcement of consumers' rights on 25 May.
The e-commerce package is composed of:
- A legislative proposal to address unjustified geoblocking and other forms of discrimination on the grounds of nationality, residence or establishment;
- A legislative proposal on cross-border parcel delivery services to increase the transparency of prices and improve regulatory oversight;
- A legislative proposal to strengthen enforcement of consumers' rights and guidance to clarify, among others, what qualifies as an unfair commercial practice in the digital world.
Preventing geoblocking and other forms of discrimination based on nationality or place of residence
The proposed regulation on geo-blocking aims to provide more opportunities to customers: it addresses the problem of customers not being able to buy products and services from traders located in a different Member State, or being discriminated in accessing the best prices or sales conditions compared to nationals or residents. Consumers and businesses – especially SMEs – show an increasing interest in shopping across the EU and online sales of products are growing by 22% per year.
Main elements of the proposal:
- sale of products and services
- access to websites
- non-discrimination in payments.
Making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient
High prices and the inconvenience of cross-border parcel delivery are one of the biggest obstacles for consumers and retailers who would like to buy and sell online across the EU.
The regulation proposed on 25 May 2016 will increase price transparency and regulatory oversight of crossborder parcel delivery services so that consumers and retailers can benefit from affordable deliveries and convenient return options even to and from peripheral regions.
Main elements of the proposal:
- increase regulatory oversight of all parcel delivery services providers
- improve price transparency through the publication of domestic and cross-border prices for a set of basic services
- Requirement of universal service providers to offer transparent and non-discriminatory third party access to multilateral cross-border agreements,
Increasing consumer trust in e-commerce
The proposed revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Regulation will give more powers to national authorities to better enforce consumer rights. They will be able to:
- check if websites geo-block consumers or offer after-sales conditions not respecting EU rules (e.g. withdrawal rights),
- order the immediate take-down of websites hosting scams
- request information from domain registrars and banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader.
The Commission is also publishing updated guidance on unfair commercial practices to respond, among others, to the challenges presented by the digital world. The revised guidance also incorporates two sets of self-regulatory principles agreed among stakeholders.
For the geo-blocking proposal to deliver its intended benefits, enforcement is needed. Once adopted, the proposal on geo-blocking would be enforced by the consumer protection authorities in the framework of the CPC Regulation where business-to-consumer transactions are concerned.
This e-commerce package complements two legislative proposals on the supply of digital content and on online and other distance sales of goods which the Commission proposed in December 2015, and the upcoming VAT simplification proposal planned for autumn 2016.