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By | Kelly Fiveash 6th March 2009 13:25

Eurocrats declare war on e-commerce cross barrier red tape

'Complex, interdependent, mutually reinforcing'

A new European Commission report has blamed persistent barriers to cross border trade for hindering the nascent e-commerce industry.

The ‘Barriers to E-commerce in the EU’ report found that online shopping was increasingly popular among consumers in the 27-bloc member states, but it warned that barriers to cross border trade were holding back its development.

The EU’s Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva presented the report yesterday.

It covers current trends in e-commerce across the EU, including per country, most purchased items and obstacles to customers and business online.

The report found that the proportion of EU consumers spending via the internet had increased from an average of 27 per cent in 2006 to 33 per cent in 2008.

More than 50 per cent of people in the UK, France and Germany made web-based purchases in the past year, it said. However, shoppers in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland proved to be the most eager spenders online where 91 per cent bought goods over the internet.

Despite that, the EU warned that cross border online purchasing remained small, at only seven per cent last year, compared to six per cent in 2006.

"Already 150 million consumers shop online, although only 30 million shop online cross border,” said Kuneva.

“We must see to it that adoption of the internet platform will not be unnecessarily slowed down by a failure to remove important regulatory barriers or to address important trust issues for consumers."

The report blamed numerous linguistic, practical, regulatory and trust issue obstacles for stifling the development of online shopping in the EU.

The report said consumer law, VAT rules and intellectual property protection were among the main barriers to cross border trading online.

"The problems affecting consumers are mirrored by those affecting businesses, in particular SMEs," said the report.

"Supply-side barriers and constraints are thus equally important in addressing this problem. The problems at issue are complex, interdependent, and sometimes mutually reinforcing."

Kuneva, who made similar noises about e-commerce two years ago, said the Commission will present results of its independent “mystery shopping” to identify how and where consumers are being prevented from making purchases online across the EU, in September this year. ®

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