Report: How differing legal frameworks across EU can hamper cross-border e-commerce


Online merchants willing to expand their business cross-border are often held back by different kinds of barriers. The legal framework has been indicated as one of the most difficult barriers to overcome for almost half of the companies selling cross-border (46%), according toEcommerce Europe’s survey “Barriers to Growth”, launched amongst its European-wide membership base in Q1 2015.

Dealing with 28 different sets of rules turn out to be burdensome for online shops, especially for smaller and medium one (SMEs). Legal fragmentations across EU create fear amongst online retailers of breaking national rules when selling goods and/or services abroad, hampering the development of cross-border online sales.

Some concrete examples from online merchants

Merchants have indicated that differing privacy rules between EU countries create large additional costs, from a legal point of view and in making IT systems compliant when selling cross-border. These costs are often difficult to handle for SMEs, which can choose not to sell cross-border accordingly.

The current European consumer protection framework suffers from overlapping requirements and conflicting national implementations and enforcement. Differing and complicated consumer laws represent a significant trade barrier, with the risk of overwhelming the consumer and being prevented from providing a user-friendly shopping experience.

Compulsory information requirements for energy labeling, that has not only to be presented in the offer but also in all advertising presented to the consumer, leads to the redundancy of information on the way to purchase and can be inappropriate for viewing on mobile devices.

The e-commerce sector needs simple, harmonized, clear and predictable rules!

Léon Mölenberg – Senior Policy Advisor of Ecommerce Europe – commented the results of the survey by emphasizing that “simple and uniform rules, which are easily applicable, will be beneficial not only for retailers but also for consumers”. To this purpose, Ecommerce Europe welcomes the European Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy, aiming to simplify rules for cross-border online purchases. In addition, Ecommerce Europe stresses that the e-commerce sector needs not only harmonized but also clear and predictable rules.

Download the Analysis of the Survey

For more information on the above and on other barriers to e-commerce, please download the Full Ecommerce Europe Analysis of the Survey ‘Barriers to Growth’ or contact Ecommerce Europe at