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Commission identifies barriers hampering more efficient and fairer retail services in Europe

European Commission - IP/10/885   05/07/2010

Other available languages: FR DE

IP/10/885

Brussels, 5 July 2010

Commission identifies barriers hampering more efficient and fairer retail services in Europe

The Commission has today adopted a report that identifies key issues potentially hampering more efficient and fairer retail services within the Internal Market and is now launching a public consultation on the report to determine future policy priorities in this domain. Reduced accessibility to basic retail services, scarce information on retail offers beyond local markets, slow growth of e-commerce, potentially abusive contractual practices throughout the retail supply chain, lack of transparency on quality labels, unsatisfactory functioning of the retail service labour markets as well as very different approaches to environmentally friendly retail services across the EU have been identified as key issues potentially hampering the retail sector. The deadline for consultation responses is 10 September 2010. The responses will feed into measures that the Commission will propose in the autumn as part of the Single Market Act.

The Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier said: "Retail services employ nearly 18 million people in the European economy. We can create more economic growth by taking away difficulties that retail services face. That's why I am now consulting widely on this report, and on that basis, I will bring forward concrete proposals in the autumn."

Retail services cover all the places or platforms from where we, as consumers, buy our food and non-food products: from local stores to hypermarkets or online stores.

Based on a novel systemic market monitoring approach, the report and associated staff working paper adopted today analyse the dynamics of the European retail sector via its linkages to hundreds of thousands of suppliers and to the final consumer market and the resulting economic, social and environmental impacts. On this basis, the report pinpoints a series of issues that may prevent the EU retail sector from realising its full potential. Issues identified are:

  • Divergent, possibly overly restrictive commercial planning systems, possible malfunctioning of the EU commercial property market and a lack of growth in e-commerce are all making it harder for consumers to access basic retail services.

  • Risk of unfair commercial practices between different actors along the supply chain, and the differing responses to these practices, can undermine profits and innovation, particularly for SMEs.

  • Lack of information and transparency on pricing means consumers may be facing less choice and paying too much for certain products. Lack of information on quality labels prevents consumers from making well-informed choices as to the products they want to buy. Better informed consumers could more easily adopt more sustainable consumption patterns.

  • Labour law rules and collective agreements are very varied across the EU, and within countries. Enforcement is inadequate as shown by the presence of an informal economy in the sector. This, combined with a mismatch between employees' ICT [Information and Communication Technologies] skills and retailers' ICT needs is undermining the economic performance of retail services within the EU.

  • A lack of common measures to assess environmental impacts across product lifecycles and fragmented application of rules across the EU inhibit the retail sector from rapidly adopting common sustainable logistics systems and cutting down on energy consumption and waste production.

The Commission now invites all interested parties to provide their views on this new systemic approach to Internal Market policy-making and on the identified problems that should be given priority in the Commission’s policy response. Responses to the report should be provided to the Commission by the 10 September 2010.

Measures to address these key issues will be presented with the forthcoming Single Market Act foreseen for autumn 2010.

Background

Given their importance in the EU economy (4.2% of EU GDP, employing 17.5 million individuals and representing 20% of European SMEs), the contribution of retail services to the competitiveness and innovation capacity of the EU is significant. The retail sector also offers job opportunities especially for young people, women and people with lower skills or qualifications. Its role as an engine for jobs is particularly important in these times of crisis. The operations of the retail sector also have major impacts on the environment as the sector is a major user of logistics and transport services, as well as energy and is a major producer of waste.

See also MEMO

More information can be found on:

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/retail/index_en.htm


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