The Group identified five key themes that are considered essential for improving the competitiveness of the retail sector:
- removing barriers to a Single Market for retail services;
- supporting the development of e-commerce;
- helping SMEs to grow;
- promoting innovation;
- addressing working environment issues.
The report shows that e-commerce has an impact on all the main areas identified and that the Internal Market in retail needs strengthening. E-commerce offers enormous opportunities for the retail sector, but entrepreneurs are not yet able to make full use of them.
The Group recommends working on strengthening the confidence of consumers and businesses in e-commerce and simplifying cross-border e-commerce in the EU. Businesses in the Internal Market should be able trade cross-border in a similar manner as they trade in their home country.
Facilitating e-commerce across borders is one of the initiatives of the Commission's Digital Single Market Strategy adopted in May and a public consultation has been launched to gather views on contract rules for online purchases.
The Group also highlighted the increasing role that e-commerce platforms play in the supply chain. The platforms can become gatekeepers and restrict other players access to market, in particular SMEs. This raises issues about business-to-business commercial relations, which will also be covered by the consultation on platforms foreseen in the Digital Single Market Strategy.
The Commission will carefully consider the recommendations of the High Level Group.
The High Level Group, which represents different stakeholders in the retail chain, was established in December 2013 to assist the Commission in developing policies to increase the long-term competitiveness of the EU retail sector.