When was the poll conducted?
Interviews for the Eurobarometer 252 on cross-border shopping were conducted face-to-face in respondents’ homes in their national language between February 20 and March 24, 2006. Respondents were aged 15 and above. The countries surveyed include the twenty-five member states of the European Union, with 24.750 respondents. The methodology used is the Standard Eurobarometer’s one, as managed by the European Commission.
What is “cross-border shopping”?
The definition of “cross-border shopping” includes any purchases made from retailers or providers located in other European Union countries, either in person or via distance selling, including :
-Travelling to another country with the primary purpose of purchasing goods or services there;
-Purchases which are made in another European country on the occasion of a business trip or holidays (excluding goods and services which are part of the trip itself, such as transport, accommodation, leisure activities, meals, etc.);
-Distance shopping, via the internet, by phone or by mail from suppliers situated in other EU member states; and
-Purchasing from sales representatives based in other European countries who may come and offer their goods or services directly to consumers.
Cross-border shopping does not include purchases of foreign-made products bought from retailers or suppliers situated in a respondent’s own country.
What are the main conclusions that can be drawn from the Eurobarometer results?
EU cross-border shopping has increased considerably over the last few years. Yet, the European market seems to be still fragmented along national lines. The full force of competition is still not felt in the business-to-consumer (B2C) internal market. This can be only realised with the existence of a consumer and business friendly environment and the enforcement of consumer protection legislation. This has to be accompanied by consumer education, information and empowerment which play a key role in developing cross–border transactions and raising confidence.
Has EU cross-border shopping really increased?
It seems that in the last three years, cross-border shopping has shown tremendous growth. It has gone from 12% in 2003 (for the EU15) to 26% in 2006 (for the EU25). In 2006, 65% of consumers who made a cross-border purchase bought products worth 100 € or more.
How does cross-border shopping take place?
The majority, 19%, of Europeans do their cross-border shopping while they are on holiday or business trip while 11%, go on trips especially for shopping. Other cross-border purchases take place through the internet, 6% and to a smaller extent by post, 2% and phone, 1%
How confident are Europeans in making cross-border purchases?
It is evident that most EU citizens are not as confident in purchasing products from sellers located in other EU countries as they are in purchasing from domestic sellers. Characteristically, 45% of internet users are less confident in buying something on the internet from sellers located in other EU countries than from sellers located in their own countries.
What are the reasons influencing consumers' confidence in cross-border shopping?
There are a variety of reasons for consumers' lack of confidence in cross-border purchases. One major reason is consumers' belief that it is harder to resolve cross-border any potential problems that might arise such as complaints, returns or price reductions. This opinion is shared by 71% of EU citizens. A very high percentage, 68%, declared that they believe that there is a greater risk of falling victims of a scam or fraud when consumers carry a cross-border purchase rather than a domestic one. At the same time, 66% think that there is a greater chance having a delivery problem when they make a cross-border purchase.
Do education and information really matter?
Throughout the survey, it is clear that education and information matter significantly. The more educated and informed consumers are, the more confident they feel in purchasing from sellers located in other countries. This finding is backed up by evidence when examining the profile of consumers who have actually carried out cross-border purchases. The above also hold for younger consumers who feel more confident and are more likely than older consumers to engage in cross-border shopping.
How interested are Europeans in cross-border shopping?
68% of EU citizens are less interested in cross-border purchases than domestic ones because they perceive them as being mainly carried out through distance selling, whereas they prefer shopping in-person and not via the internet, phone or mail order. About two thirds of respondents prefer shopping face to face.
However, one third of the EU population is interested in making a cross-border transaction within the next 12 months. This is 6% higher than the amount of EU citizens who have made at least one cross-border purchase in the past year (26%). So, the interest in making cross-border transactions seems to be rising.
How informed are consumers about their rights and the available offers?
Two thirds of Europeans, 67% do not know where they can get information and advice about cross-border shopping. Not only that, but it seems that consumers are not very aware on the offers available to them and how they can benefit from the Internal Market. An overall figure of 57% of EU citizens, have not seen a cross-border advertisement or offer in the last year. 45% of EU consumers who have often, seen, heard or received cross-border advertisements or offers, are interested in making a cross-border purchase in the next year. As consumers become more informed, they are more likely to make cross-border transactions.
What is the Commission doing to increase consumer confidence in cross-border shopping?
The Commission considers that education and information play a key role in developing consumer confidence, as well as proper enforcement and updating of legislation.
With regard to consumer education, the Commission has a number of projects underway, including the highly successful ‘Europa Diary’. This is a homework diary that aims to inform young people of their rights, increase their awareness and to enable them to make more informed decisions as consumers. It is aimed at students between the ages of 15 and 18. It exists in 20 languages and has been adapted to the national contexts of all Member States. Over 900,000 copies of the most recent edition were distributed across the EU.
Another education tool is the recently-launched Dolceta website, which aims to provide clear and comprehensible information about consumer rights and financial services across the EU.
There to help educate and enforce, the European Consumer Centres will be established in all Member States by the end of this year. ECC-Net, as they are known, are there to advise people if they have a problem or question regarding consumer rights or products in other EU countries. The network ensures that consumers have confidence to seek out the best deals across Europe. In addition, a new law on Unfair Commercial Practices will come into force next year, banning across Europe a number of practices such as pressure selling and scams. From January 2007 there will also be the possibility for national authorities to cooperate on cross-border cases.
A further essential tool in building consumer confidence is having the right legal framework in place. The Commission is constantly scrutinising EU legislation on businesses and consumers in the Internal Market, to make sure it responds to the demand and can be easily applied across the EU. For instance, the Commission is currently reviewing a group of consumer laws on issues such as timeshare, doorstep selling and distance selling, and gathering views from stakeholders and the public on how these should be updated.
The Eurobarometer 252 is available at:
For further information on EU consumer protection policy: