Europeans urged to shop more – online at least

The European Parliament has called for a new Europe-wide policy for encouraging e-commerce, including a new “charter” for buyers’ rights. MEPs approved a report that demands new strategies for increasing consumer confidence while making e-commerce more attractive to businesses.

MEPs also want to improve access to goods and services across national borders.

The report notes that just 6% of European consumers engage in cross-border e-commerce. Of those who attempt it, one-third find that businesses refuse to sell their goods or services because the buyer and seller aren’t resident in the same country.

“Overall, European consumer and business confidence in the digital environment is low,” Parliament concludes. “The lack of confidence in online sales – and the legal uncertainty associated with it – is one of the main reasons why Europe lags behind the United States and Asia in certain aspects of e-commerce.”

The report recommends that the Commission sets up projects designed to raise businesses’ awareness of cross-border online sales. And it needs to ensure that an “early-warning system” is in place to combat online fraud.

The Parliament also called for a new directive to harmonise consumer laws, particularly with regard to distance selling of financial services and e-commerce, where it needs to establish “collective redress mechanisms” for cross-border disputes between buyers and sellers.

It also proposes a “European charter of users’ rights” coupled with a system for providing detailed information about these rights.

The final proposal recommends that the Commission introduce a European online trust mark, once “obstacles to the integration of the retail side of the internal market have been removed”.

The report will now be sent to Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media.

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