One of the pillars of the EU’s Digital Market Strategy is to ensure that consumers and businesses have a better access to online goods and services across the continent. E-commerce is growing but its potential is still untapped – only 12 percent of EU retailers sell online to consumers in other EU countries while about 37 percent sell in their own country. On the contrary, only 15 percent of consumers purchase online from another EU country while about 44 percent do so at home.
In order to support cross-country commerce within the EU, the Commission has recently come up with two proposals: one on the supply of digital content, like streaming music, and another one on the online sales of goods. The two proposals are meant to deal with the two main hurdles to the cross-border e-commerce in the block – legal fragmentation in the area of consumer contract law and the resultant high costs for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and low trust when buying from another EU country.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, commented that “the proposals will give more rights to consumers on-line – allow them to enjoy products and services from other EU countries in full confidence.” He added that “businesses, especially the smallest ones, can grow across borders at less cost, with a common set of EU rules instead of a patchwork of national laws” concluding that “now the Digital Single Market is under way, improving the daily life of people, where digital is everywhere”.
Removing barriers to e-commerce and digital content should bring an overall benefit to the European economy. About 122,000 businesses are expected to start selling to consumers in other Member States while the total number of consumers buying from other EU countries should reach up to 70 million. This should in turn open new markets for SMEs, spur competition and economic growth. Lower consumer prices are expected to boost consumption by €18 billion and EU’s gross domestic product is expected to go up by €4 billion from its current level. Moreover, consumers should also benefit from more consumer protection and a wider choice of products at competitive prices.