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Monday, 15 December 2008

EC to Ask First, Shoot Later


Great news. In her recent blog, the European Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Meglena Kuneva, has said:
"In January, I will publish a report on the realities of cross-border e-commerce for consumers in Europe and investigate what the real barriers to shopping online in another Member State are. Once the problems are identified, they are easier to resolve."
This is indeed a welcome departure from the Commission's approach to facilitating cross-border e-commerce over the past 8 years or so, which resulted in firing out a plethora of European directives that only 7% of EU citizens have been able to enjoy.

Time, at last, to focus on the analysis and resolution of the root practical causes of why cross-border appears to be growing so slowly - if that is truly a problem in itself.

Of course, there is no single “e-commerce market”. Rather, every market has its online segment, and each develops differently from its offline counterpart as well as online segments of markets for other products. Drawing together the “vertical” analysis may help identify which areas of e-commerce may be more ripe for early progress and/or especially difficult practical problems on which work/education needs to start now if a market is to materialise in the longer term.

For example, it is worth considering that the May 2007 study by Civic Consulting revealed the main barriers to a single European market for consumer credit to be “different language and culture; consumers’ preference for national lenders; credit risk for lenders – no access to creditworthiness information; problems related to tax, employment practices etc.; difficulties to penetrate local market; different consumer demand in different Member States; lack of consumer confidence in a brand; differing stages of development of consumer credit; and lack of adequate marketing strategies.” The study concluded that “a single market for consumer credit cannot be expected to be created by harmonisation of legislation alone, and this is a long term rather than a short or medium term perspective.”
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