European Justice Ministers discuss Ecommerce Europe’s policy recommendations


Ecommerce Europe has been invited by the European Commission to present its position on the barriers faced by online merchants and consumers when they sell or buy online. Marlene ten Ham – Secretary General of Ecommerce Europe – presented the views of the association in a video message together with other representatives from the consumer and business organizations in the European Union (EU).

E-commerce top priority for the European Commission

The video has been used as an introduction to the discussions at a recent meeting of European Justice Ministers, during which many of Ecommerce Europe’s concerns were taken into account. Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová gave a speech at the end of the meeting highlighting the importance of a seamless e-commerce sector in Europe. The Commissioner affirmed that the Commission wants to “simplify the rules for consumers making online and digital purchases, and facilitate e-commerce”.

Legal fragmentation of European rules is key obstacle 

One of the key obstacles to the Digital Single Market is the legal fragmentation of consumer and contract rules, affirmed Commissioner Jourová, which is also one of Ecommerce Europe’s main concerns. As a result, only 15% of consumers bought online from other European countries in 2014, while 44% did so domestically, and only 5% of businesses sell cross-border online, according to the Commission. Like the Commission, also Ecommerce Europe believes that the complexity of the legal landscape results in consumers losing trust in buying cross-border, and consequently losses for merchants. Consumers could save €11.7bn each year if they could choose from a full range of EU goods and services when shopping online, declared the Justice Commissioner.

Fragmentation is too costly for online merchants

The Commission is aware that the cost of this fragmentation represents a key problem for online merchants. The fact that they need to comply with 28 different sets of for example contract or privacy rules has a heavy price tag and that is why Ecommerce Europe advocates for harmonization of such European rules. Adding everything up, the total costs suffered by businesses when they sell cross-border to consumers in the EU is between €4bn and €8bn, according to Commissioner Jourová. These costs are of course more burdensome for Small and Medium companies.

Next steps

The European legislators are willing to offer both consumer and businesses the right rules to break down legal fragmentation in the Digital Single Market in order to ensure that consumers are adequately protected and that businesses benefit from a level playing field. Ecommerce Europe stays closely in contact with the European policy makers, assuring that the interest of the sector will be taken into account.

For an overview of Ecommerce Europe’s recommendations, please click here for the Ecommerce Europe Priority Paper (2014). Ecommerce Europe will present an updated version of her Digital Single Market policy priorities beginning next week.