The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) launches the report “Online Cross-border Mystery Shopping – State of the e-Union”. The report reveals that in general consumers can be confident when shopping online across borders but it also shows obstacles that must be dealt with. Consumer conditions have improved when shopping online across borders compared to the ECC-Net 2003 report “Realities of the European online marketplace. A cross-border e-commerce project by the European Consumer Centre's Network”. The findings support that as long as essential information is provided on the websites, consumers can feel safe shopping cross-border online. Surprisingly the presence of a Trustmark does not seem to make a difference.
The delivery rate of ordered products was 94% which is a remarkable improvement from the 66 % in 2003, in addition 86% of all purchases were delivered within 14 days. The report also shows areas with room for improvement. One of the major barriers is the lack of traders willing to sell to consumers in other countries.
Information is still missing
Even though EU directives have been implemented in all countries within the internal market, clearly stating what information the trader must present to the consumer, these requirements are not met by all traders. For example:
In 18% of the purchases the Mystery Shopper was not informed about the legal right to withdraw from the contract. In 63% of the purchases the websites did not contain information about the legal warranty. In 12% of the purchases the Mystery Shopper could not find the trader's email address.
Lack of reimbursement
The Mystery Shopper was reimbursed in 90% of all the purchases which is another great improvement from the 68,5 % in 2003. At the same time it cannot be ignored that in more than 50% of the purchases the trader did not reimburse the delivery costs. This needs to improve in order to ensure a continuous positive development in cross-border e-commerce.
Our advice to consumers is “be prepared, not scared!”
What is next?
European Consumer Centres recommend consumer and trade organisations to use the report findings when working together to improve the awareness of consumer protection laws applicable to online shopping in the EU plus Iceland and Norway.
About the ECC-Net
The ECC-Net is made up of European Consumer Centres in 29 countries (27 EU Member States, plus Norway and Iceland), and is co-funded by the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General of the European Commission and by each of the Member States. The aim of the network is to create confidence in the European internal market by providing consumers with useful information on their rights, advice and help with cross-border purchases. For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/ecc-net
The complete report can be found here both in html and pdf version.