Some sobering figures from the European Commission for single market
fantasists enthusiasts (as if Greece wasn't sobering enough).
EU cross-border services account for 4% of all online services, as opposed to national services within the US (57%) and in each of the EU member states (39%).
15% of EU consumers bought online from other member states, compared to 44% who bought online nationally, with online content seeing double-digit growth.
Only 7% of SMEs sell online across EU borders - and it costs an average of €9,000 to adapt their processes to local law in order to do so.
The cost/price of delivery is (obviously) cited as a major problem, as well as differing VAT arrangements. But suggested solutions seem to ignore these and other key barriers to cross-border retail that have been cited in previous market studies, such as lack of marketing strategy, preference for national brands, language barriers and local employment law challenges. Presumably, that's because the Commission can do little to address such fundamental practicalities. Instead, they want to focus on:
- stronger data protection rules;
- broadband/4G roll-out;
- use of 'Big Data' analytics; and
- better digital skills amongst citizens and e-government by default.
The sense of futility that permeates such reports by Eurocrats only emphasises the fact that the law follows commerce; it doesn't catalyse markets.
Yet, ironically, in areas where commercial and consumer pressure to enable cross-border activity is emerging, such as crowdfunding and crypto-technology, we find European institutions taking an unduly restrictive approach.
When will they simply get out of the way?