Cross-border EU ecommerce still stymied

Barriers to cross border trade are holding back the development of online shopping, according to a report by the EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva: it 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.

The report - ‘Barriers To Ecommerce’ - found that between 2006 and 2008 the proportion of EU consumers buying at least one item over the internet increased from 27 per cent to 33 per cent. These average figures mask the popularity of online shopping in countries like UK, France, and Germany, where more than 50 per cent of Internet users have made online purchases in the last year (2008/2009).

In the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland) the proportion of Internet users who bought products and services online was 91 per cent in 2008. Countries like Italy and Spain are also fast growing markets, Kuneva concludes.

Against this pattern of fast-growing national markets, the extent of online purchasing cross border remains small, at only 7 per cent in 2008 (compared to 6 per cent 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’.

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.

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