Barriers to Cross-Border Trade Impede Online Shopping

The EC recently published a report on 'Barriers to e-commerce', which analyses the current trends in e-commerce in Europe and warns about the numerous obstacles that still impede cross-border online shopping from developing to its maximum potential.

The report highlights that the popularity of e-commerce has been increasing from 27% to 33% in the EU, with the UK, France and Germany having the highest peaks in online sales last year (50% of Internet users purchased products online at least once). The most popular goods purchased are IT products and leisure goods. Overall the study shows a high level of satisfaction among consumers who appreciate the convenience of e-commerce and the wider variety of products and suppliers available online.

In spite of the positive features of e-commerce, the reports also warns that several obstacles are inhibiting the development of cross-border trade which represents only 7% of all online shopping in 2008 (compared to 6% in 2006). These barriers include logistical problems related to the interoperability of payment systems, as well as regulatory issues concerning consumer law, VAT rules and national legislation on intellectual property protection. Linguistic problems in business transactions and consumer’s worries about safety of online purchasing are also factors limiting the growth of cross-border online trade.

The EC will monitor the retail sector and present an updated report on barriers to e-commerce in Autumn 2009.

Click here to read the full text of the Communication.