Brussels, 8 February 2007
The survey was carried out among over 6.600 managers, of companies with at least 10 employees and having a direct retail activity, of whom 97% were SMEs. 29% of them are currently carrying out cross-border transactions and 48% said they would be prepared to sell to consumers in other EU countries. However, 66% sell exclusively in their domestic market and only 19% do market or advertise cross-border.
Growing numbers of retailers now use distance selling methods, such as the internet (57%) or mail order (27%) to reach more customers. While new technologies and increasing broadband access have the potential to ease cross-border retail trade, consumers' still lack confidence and companies' are reluctant to offer their products across borders. This prevents them from fully benefiting from a wider market, increased choice, better prices and quality.
The biggest perceived obstacle to cross-border trade is the insecurity of transactions (61% of respondents considered this an important obstacle). This is closely followed by concerns over different fiscal regulations (58%), potential problems with resolving complaints (57%), differences in national laws regulating consumer transactions (55%), difficulties in ensuring after-sales service (55%) and extra delivery costs (51%). Language differences stand out as being less important (43%).
The findings of this survey tie in with a 2006 Eurobarometer on consumer attitudes to cross-border shopping. The 2006 survey showed that while 27% of citizens had bought a product or service online in the previous year, only 6% made an online cross-border purchase.
MEMO/07/48 on Green Paper on the review of the Acquis.
Eurobarometer 186 on business attitudes towards cross-border sales: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/topics/facts_en.htm
Eurobarometer 252 (October 2006) on consumer attitudes to cross-border purchases: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/topics/facts_en.htm