The internet is the fastest growing channel for retail sales, yet only one in three consumers would consider shopping online from another EU-country. The European Parliament on Tuesday backed proposals to encourage cross-border e-trading and build consumer confidence.
A European "trust mark" for websites that guarantee the reliability and quality of goods sold online across borders is just one of the non-binding proposals made today by MEPs to boost consumer confidence and so unlock the growth potential of e-trading for Europe. The new mark, they say, should be based on EU law and be supervised by the Commission. But it should be implemented in cooperation with existing trust mark labels in Member States and backed up by standards enforcement mechanisms at national level.
Ending discrimination against cross-border customers
Online sales are often hindered by foreign traders refusing to accept orders from consumers living in another EU country. MEPs regret that the Services Directive has still not been fully transposed into the laws of some Member States. They call on the Commission and Member States to ensure this is done, thereby putting an end to discrimination against consumers on the basis of their electronic address or residence, and to see that the non-discrimination rule is properly enforced.
Transparency and privacy
MEPs emphasise the need to make e-trading more transparent by ensuring that the consumer always knows the identity and contact details of the supplier. They also call on the Commission to strengthen consumers' data privacy, stress the importance of supporting the most secure technologies for electronic payment systems and call for a European early-warning system, including a database to combat fraud in the digital market.
Lastly, Parliament calls for a degree of harmonisation of some aspects of consumer contract law, especially regarding the handling of certain types of warranty claims.
Today's resolution on "completing the internal market for e-commerce" is Parliament's response to the Commission's March 2010 working paper on barriers holding back consumers and businesses in digital trading.
"E-commerce is a tool with great potential to reshape and improve the competitiveness of the EU economy and the European internal market, and can provide great value and opportunities to European citizens and businesses at this time of financial strain", said Parliament's rapporteur Pablo Arias Echeverria (EPP, ES) ahead of the vote. He added "It is vital that European Union leaders implement the necessary measures to overcome remaining barriers in e-commerce, and create trust and transparency so that both citizens and businesses can fully exploit its benefits".
A new directive on consumers' rights is in the pipeline. In addition, the Commission has committed itself to issuing a Code of EU Online Rights by 2012.
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