International Law

European Commission Consults on How to Improve the Role of E-Commerce


Ten years ago, the European Commission sought to promote electronic commerce ("e-commerce") by adopting a directive addressing certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (2000/31/EC) (the "E-Commerce Directive"). Its aim was to encourage consumers and businesses alike to make full use of the opportunities presented by e-commerce, thereby promoting cross-border trade and assisting in the creation of the single market.

A decade later, however, online sales account for a paltry 2% of total European retail trade. The Commission feels that this is not good enough, so has launched a consultation on the operation and implementation of the E-Commerce Directive, as well as seeking general views on why e-commerce has not been more of a success in Europe. With many complaints continuing to be heard about the inability of consumers to purchase goods from other countries over the internet, and the inability of companies to provide effective cross-border services, the implications for the single market and its attendant competition are clear.

The consultation is addressed to individuals, consumer associations, businesses and governments. With regard to individuals, it seeks to understand the drivers behind consumer choices, and to uncover consumer perceptions as to why online retailing is not currently thriving. That theme is developed in the questions aimed at businesses, which look to identify the problems businesses encounter when looking to maximise e-commerce opportunities.

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