Brussels, 5 March 2009
Consumers: Online shopping increasingly popular in the EU, but development "held back" by barriers to cross border trade
A new report on "Barriers to E-commerce", presented today by EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva shows that online shopping is increasingly popular in the EU, but warns that barriers to cross border trade are holding back its development. The report published today presents a detailed analysis of current trends in e-commerce across the EU – including per country, most purchased items and obstacles for consumers and business online. Between 2006 and 2008 the proportion of EU consumers buying at least one item over the internet increased from 27% to 33%. These average figures mask the huge popularity of online shopping in countries like UK, France and Germany where more than 50% of internet users have made online purchases in the last year. In the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) the proportion of internet users who bought products and services online was 91% in 2008. Countries like Italy and Spain are also fast growing markets. Against this pattern of fast growing national markets, the extent of online purchasing cross border remains small, at only 7% in 2008 (compared to 6% in 2006). The report warns that numerous obstacles - linguistic, practical and regulatory as well as important trust issues – are holding back the development of online shopping in the EU.
Commissioner Kuneva said "Consumers have everything to gain from the Internet. It expands the size of the market they operate in and gives them access to more providers and more choice. It makes it possible to compare products, suppliers and prices on an unprecedented scale. Internet use for retail shopping is destined to become pervasive. Already 150 million consumers shop online, although only 30 million shop online cross border. We must see to it that adoption of the internet platform will not be unnecessarily slowed down by a failure to remove important regulatory barriers or to address important trust issues for consumers."
The main findings:
1. E-commerce is doing well
Consumers are generally satisfied with online shopping. For particularly frequently bought groups of products such as IT product as well as entertainment and leisure goods, consumer satisfaction with internet shopping is on average higher than for retailing in general.
2. There is a strong potential for cross border trade in online commerce
3. The potential of cross border trade is failing to materialise
From 2006 to 2008, the share of online shoppers in the EU has increased from 27% to 33% of consumers while cross-border e-commerce remained stable. Only 7% of consumers currently buy cross-border online. And the gap is widening not narrowing.
The main barriers:
Practical and regulatory obstacles, include
The next steps:
In September 2009, Commissioner Kuneva will present the results of independent "mystery shopping" to identify how and where consumers are being prevented from shopping online across the EU. As part of the Commission's monitoring of the retail sector, Commissioner Kuneva launched last Autumn a Commission wide process to screen for barriers to e-commerce, the Commission's final report on the retail sector is due in Autumn 2009.