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1. Introduction

Even if online cross-border shopping within the internal market continues to increase, the growth is not as high as could be expected. Several studies[1] have shown that many consumers are still either unaware of the possibilities or afraid of running into problems with traders. According to the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard[2], the total share of consumers shopping online has increased from 37% in 2009 to 40% in 2010, however, only 9% of this share is crossing the borders[3].

The increase in number of consumers shopping online cross-border is fairly low when compared to domestic figures. Since the declared goal for the European Commission is for 20% of the population to buy cross-border online by 2015[4], there is still a long way to go. The figures show that consumers tend to be more confident when purchasing goods and services online domestically. So what is keeping consumers from shopping across borders? Consumers’ perceptions seem to be a major barrier to cross-border e-commerce. According to the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard, consumers are concerned about:

For consumers who have actually tried to shop across borders the figures are 34% and 20% respectively[6]. 61% of the consumers who have already shopped across borders are equally confident in cross-border and domestic online shopping compared to only 33% of the general population. The Consumer Conditions Scoreboard also shows that cross-border e-commerce appears to be as reliable as domestic e-commerce or even more:

The aim of this joint project was to test the conditions in the internal market for consumers when they shop cross-border online. We wanted to find out whether their concerns are justified.

The Consumer Conditions Scoreboard also shows that 59% of consumers are concerned about what to do if problems arise, and that being uncertain about their rights discouraged 44% from buying goods or services from sellers in other EU countries. This suggests that consumers need more information on their rights and their possibilities of enforcing them, in order to increase consumer confidence in online cross-border shopping within the internal market.

One of the core objectives of the European Consumer Centres’ Network (ECC-Net) is to help consumers to feel confident when they take advantage of the possibilities provided by the internal market to purchase goods and services from a trader in another Member State, Norway or Iceland. We increase consumer confidence by, among other things, providing information about the conditions of the internal market, consumer rights and by assisting consumers with specific information requests and complaints.

In order to be able to continuously provide relevant information on the conditions of the internal market to consumers and other main stakeholders (such as the European Commission and national consumer authorities), it is important for the ECC-Net to carry out empirical research projects. In doing so, the ECC-Net contributes to increasing consumer confidence because the results of such projects create awareness about the relevant issues, if any.

This report will also contribute to the European Commission’s 20% objective by highlighting the obstacles consumers face and by providing various recommendations on how to eliminate them.

The ECC-Net comprises centres in each of the 27 EU countries[8], as well as one in Norway and Iceland. The ECC-Net is co-financed by the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General of the European Commission (DG SANCO) and by each member country. The European Consumer Centre in Denmark has led this project in close cooperation with the Centres in Lithuania, Norway, Portugal and Sweden, who formed the working group of the project.

[1] E.g. “Realities of the European online marketplace. A cross-border e-commerce project by the European Consumer Centre’s Network” (2003), p. 4 (hereafter referred to as the 2003 report), available at online_marketplace2003.pdf, “Mystery Shopping Evaluation of Cross-Border E-Commerce in the EU” (2009), p. 8 (hereafter referred to as the 2009 report), available at en.pdf, “The European Online Marketplace: Consumer Complaints 2008-2009”, p. 3 (hereafter referred to as the ECC-Net e-commerce report) and the “Consumer Conditions Scoreboard - Consumers at home in the single market”, 5th edition, March 2011 (hereafter referred to as the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard).

[2] Cf. the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard, p. 11 (see footnote 1).

[3] The share increased from 8% in 2009 to 9% in 2010, according to the ECC-Net e-commerce report, p. 38 and “Consumers at Home in the Single Market? Questions and Answers on the 5th Consumer Scoreboard”, MEMO/11/154 (Figure 5).

[4] European Commission: “A Digital Agenda for Europe”, COM(2010) 245, p. 41 and the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard, p. 9.

[5] Cf. the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard, p. 15 (see footnote 1).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] ECC Greece is currently not operating.

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– STATE OF THE e-UNION" as chapter 0 of 8.

This page forms part of the publication "ONLINE CROSS-BORDER MYSTERY SHOPPING – STATE OF THE e-UNION" as the preface.
– STATE OF THE e-UNION" as appendix -8.
Version no. 1.0, 2011-08-31
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