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Brussels, 15 November 2002

Unlocking the potential of cross-border shopping in the EU: Commission publishes survey results

The Commission today published two major surveys on cross-border shopping in the EU. The surveys look at both the consumer and business experience of, and attitudes to, cross-border shopping. They are relevant in the context of the Commission's Green Paper on Consumer Protection and follow-up communication (see IP/02/842). They reveal that only 13% of EU consumers made a cross-border purchase in the last 12 months and that most of these purchases were on shopping, holiday or business trips. 45% of businesses said harmonisation would increase their cross-border sales.

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said: "With the publication of this research we now have a complete picture of the attitudes of business and consumers to trading in the Internal Market. Cross-border shopping still appears to be stuck at a stubbornly low level. The regulatory obstacles we have identified do appear to be a major cause of the problem, although others need to be tackled too. Encouragingly, the potential for cross-border shopping to take-off does appear to be there, both on the part of business and consumers. There seems to be a real appetite among small and medium-sized enterprises(1), who are currently deterred by the maze of laws in operation."

The highlights of the two surveys were as follows:

  • Only 13% of EU consumers have made a single cross-border purchase in the last 12 months. Most of these purchases were on shopping, holiday or business trips. Very few were by internet or mail order. 55% had not seen or heard cross-border advertising or information in the last 12 months.

  • Business also reported that cross-border sales make up only a small percentage of sales to final consumers: 3% of Internet sales, 3.7% of telephone/mail order, 8% of door-to-door, 4.8% of sales to tourists in shops. Only 6.6% of advertising and marketing budgets are aimed at encouraging cross-border sales.

  • Harmonisation of regulations on commercial practices, advertising and other consumer protection regulation was cited as the most efficient of the options in facilitating cross-border sales and/or advertising (68.2% of businesses).

  • 38% of businesses said the proportion of their advertising budgets devoted to cross-border sales would increase with harmonisation and 45% said harmonisation would increase their sales.

The Commission's Green Paper on Consumer Protection (COM (2001) 531 final), the follow-up communication (COM (2002) 289 final) and surveys can be found at the website of the Commission's Directorate General Health and Consumer Protection:

(1) In line with the real distribution of SMEs in Europe, 85% of respondents to the business survey were small (under 50 employees), 12% medium (50-250) and under 3% large businesses.

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