EU to launch e-commerce competition inquiry

The investigation will look into why the sector isn't growing, despite more consumers heading online for purchases

ecommerce

The EU plans to take a closer look at cross-country e-commerce, after it was revealed online transactions were only growing very slowly in comparison to the number of overall transactions taking place.

In 2014, almost half of EU citizens bought products or services online, but only 15 per cent of the transactions used services in other EU states.

Although the EU has noted that part of this may be down to language barriers, consumer preferences and differences in legislation across member states, the body said it suspects some countries are restricting cross-border e-commerce, possibly by geo-blocking consumers from accessing their websites.

Additionally, retailers may only accept credit cards from the host nation, meaning they are unable to complete the purchase online and so will head elsewhere to find the same product - often paying more than on the original website. Not only is this bad cross-border business, it is also a bad experience for the consumer too.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestage, who is responsible for competition policy, said she will refer the inquiry the College of Commissioners and their findings will contribute to the commission's objectives of achieving a Digital Single Market.

Vestager said: "It is high time to remove remaining barriers to e-commerce, which is a vital part of a true Digital Single Market in Europe. The envisaged sector inquiry will help the commission to understand and tackle barriers to e-commerce to the benefit of European citizens and business."

Vestager hopes the study will determine where the key issue lies and will also help enforce competition law in the e-commerce sector.

The aims of the Digital Single Market are to make Europe more competitive in the global economy by boosting cross-country trade and eradicate geoblocking.

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