eCommerce: Revision of Directive or Diversion of Direction?

Use of the Internet to help shoppers should be a widespread practice – so why aren’t more consumers going online?

For most, the increased choice, competition and consumer empowerment (through better information and feedback) that the Internet offers should mean that it’s a no brainer to shop online. Ecommerce also gives businesses the chance to reach global scale with minimal investment in bricks and mortar or large distribution and marketing networks.

In the US, ecommerce makes up 7% of all retail sales (amounting to $173bn), and is projected to grow by 10% up to 2014. European online sales, however, are only under 2% of the total. This figure is set to grow, but the European Commission is concerned at the relatively slow pace of this growth. It has therefore asked for opinions on whether the eCommerce Directive sets the right scene for online businesses to flourish in Europe.

Telefonica has replied to this questionnaire, along with many others companies and NGOs.

The use of the Internet to shop requires more than just the right legal framework – for starters, it helps to have:
• a decent connection to the Web
• the ability to know which terms to use in search or comparison engines
• an understanding of the potential risks to personal privacy
• the means to pay for what you want to buy – cash doesn’t cut it

among many other things in place if people are to fully take up the great potential that online commerce offers. The current legal system has been around for 10 years now, and has stood the test of time and progress pretty well – that is evident from the growth of the Internet, and of businesses who do other stuff besides selling products and services for a price. There are plenty of barriers, including important ones of language and consumer culture – the Commission would be wise to examine those before it tackles the thorny problems lying in the EU’s legal framework for ecommerce.

What would be your priorities for change to help grow online business in Europe? Is the Commission better off examining the Ecommerce Directive, or are there more important things it could be doing?

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