With a 'home market' of over 500 million consumers, e-commerce is a major potential pillar of the power of the Digital Single Market to create growth and jobs in Europe. However, today only 14% of all EU enterprises are selling on-line to their domestic market and only 6% to other EU countries. On the EU customers side, 50% shopped online in 2014 from sellers located in the same country, but only 15% bought from another EU Member State. What are then the barriers preventing EU-based merchants and consumers from selling and shopping on line for physical and digital products across the EU? This EIF dinner debate provided the occasion for exchange with e-retailers and consumers on how to remove complexity, legal uncertainty and costs to unlock the potential of e-commerce in Europe.
Vicky Ford, MEP and EIF Steering Committee Member, chaired this debate. In her opening remarks she stressed the fact that the EU is facing a crucial challenge for ensuring that the Single Market in Europe becomes fully digital.
Jörgen Bödmar, CEO & Founder of Scandinavian Design Center and President of EMOTA, the European Multi-channel and Online Trade Association, shared his views and his experience in doing e-commerce in the EU. He warned that the EU digital market is still very fragmented, forcing business to deal with 28 different VAT regimes, data protection systems and other laws.
Oliver Prothmann, Founder of the Initiative Choice in eCommerce, talked about the initiative’s efforts to fight online platform sales bans especially affecting small and medium-sized sellers. He cited Adidas’ removal of online restrictions in Germany as one of their biggest achievements.
Clare Josa, co-founder of EUVatAction Campaign, a group of small business owners located in the EU, presented the difficulties that micro business owners face to do smooth business across Europe. She presented a shocking statistic:
27% of EU’s micro businesses have chosen not to sell to other EU countries due to the EU legal framework. However they still do business with the US, Australia, New Zealand and other not EU countries.
Paul Alfing, chair of the e-payments committee at Ecommerce Europe, stressed that there is an urgent need to harmonize 28 legal frameworks across Europe. He also offered ways to improve online payment systems, including banking solutions and the use of a European ID.
Ursula Pachl, Deputy Director General at BEUC, cited trust, choice and access as well as enforcement and redress as key elements to achieve a consumer-driven Digital Single Market.