European Consumer Centre

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Commission to ease cross-border purchases in EU

The European Commission today tabled a package of measures to allow consumers and companies to buy and sell products and services online more easily and confidently across the EU. The plan is to boost e-commerce by tackling geoblocking, making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient and promoting customer trust through better protection and enforcement.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “Too many people in Europe are hesitant to purchase online because they don’t know their rights or think they are hard to enforce. I want consumers to buy online as confidently as they would offline. We will give teeth to consumer protection authorities to better enforce consumer rights online and crack down on fraudulent practices. Today's package is an important step to bring consumer protection up to speed with the online world and to give legal certainty to traders.”

Today’s e-commerce package is composed of legislative proposals which the Europeal Parliament will deal with now.

Preventing geoblocking

When a consumer enters a shop in another EU country, the owner does not ask for the consumer’s ID in order to accept a purchase or to adjust the price or conditions. But in the online world, all too often consumers are blocked from accessing offers in other countries for example by re-routing the consumer back to a country-specific website, or asking to pay with a debit or credit card from a certain country. Such discrimination has no place in the Single Market.

While the principle of non-discrimination is already established under the Services Directive, companies and consumers alike will benefit from more legal certainty about which practices are allowed and which ones are not. No obligation to deliver across the EU is imposed

Making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable

The Regulation proposed today will increase price transparency and regulatory oversight of cross-border parcel delivery services so that consumers and retailers can benefit from affordable deliveries and convenient return options even to and from peripheral regions.

Why pay €25 for a parcel from Italy to Austria when it costs €14 the other way around?

Consumers and small businesses complain that problems with parcel delivery, in particular high delivery charges in cross-border shippings, prevent them from selling or buying more across the EU. Prices charged by postal operators to deliver a small parcel to another Member State are often up to 5 times higher than domestic prices, without a clear correlation to the actual costs.

The Regulation will foster competition by introducing greater price transparency. The Commission will publish public listed prices of universal service providers to increase peer competition and tariff transparency.

Increasing consumer trust in e-commerce

The proposed revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation will give more powers to national authorities to better enforce consumer rights. They will be able to:

  • check if websites geo-block consumers or offer after-sales conditions not respecting EU rules (e.g. withdrawal rights);
  • order the immediate take-down of websites hosting scams;
  • request information from domain registrars and banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader.

In case of EU-wide breaches of consumer rights, the Commission will be able to coordinate common actions with national enforcement authorities to stop these practices. It will ensure a swifter protection of consumers, while saving time and resources for Member States and businesses. The Commission is also publishing updated guidance on unfair commercial practices to respond among others to the challenges presented by the digital world.

The complete press release is available on the Commission's website.