martes, 25 de febrero de 2014

eCommerce in the European Union: State of the Art

The European Commission has been trying to promote eCommerce since the end of the XX century. The first major step in this journey was the approval of the eCommerce Directive (Directive 2000/31/EC). The European Union at that moment was composed only of 15 countries and Internet was in its infancy. Although since 2004 (the first year with Eurostat data) eCommerce services usage by citizens has jumped in EU15 from 27% to 53%, the evolution of eCommerce usage in Europe has been lower than expected by the EC, that in 2003 expected 54% usage by 2006

The sluggish development of eCommerce usage in EU according withe EC expectations drove to the inclusion of new actions for its boosting in the Digital Agenda for Europe. The EC commitment was to "Evaluate by end 2010 the impact of the e-Commerce Directive on online  markets and make concrete proposals" ( COM(2010) 245, page 11).  

As the aim of all the EU policies is the creation of an actual single market, this evaluation was done from the perspective of trying to identify the barriers for  online cross-border transactions. For this purpose, a consultation was held in 2011 and a roadmap to overcome this barriers was set in the communication "A coherent framework for building trust in the Digital Single Market for e-commerce and online services" ( COM(2011) 942 ). The actions included in this roadmap aims to "facilitate cross-border access to online products and content, ultimately solve the problems of payment, delivery and consumer protection and information, and assist dispute resolution and the removal of illegal content".

A good summary of the current roadmap for eCommerce development could be found in the FAQ of the communication. The roadmap does not include a revision of the Directive but only its better enforcement in cross-border scenarios through the Internal Market Information System. By the combination of other EC ICT plans as the cloud computing strategy or the Connecting Europe Facility and specific strategies as the recently approved roadmap for the completion of the parcel delivery single market, it is expected that the full potential of eCommerce in the EU will be unleashed.

Are the above actions enough to reach the objetive of a vibrant digital single market in the eCommerce arena? Taking on account the indicators of the Digital Agenda Socreboard it looks we are on the right path, the objective for the EU27 was set at 50% of online buyers and according with the last Eurostat data we have reached the 47%. The question is if this is enough or if the objective was to low.

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