Ecommerce Europe advises European Commission on completing the Single Market

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The President of Ecommerce Europe, François Momboisse, has been invited by the European Commission to take part in a conference on “Buying services everywhere in the European Single Market”. President Momboisse explained the challenges for companies trying to sell online services in another European country.

Online retailers should be let free to choose their markets

To online merchants, it is important that the current European rule against the discrimination of consumers does not oblige businesses to deliver services everywhere in the European Union. Delivering everywhere would not affordable for most of the companies. “If a French web shop is willing to develop in Sweden, it should invest in employees speaking the language of the destination country. Unfortunately, you have to develop country-by-country, you cannot do that in 28 markets at once”, President Momboisse declared.

Non-discrimination principle and burdens for online companies

The Article 20.2 of the Services Directive prohibits discrimination against European consumers of services with regard to their nationality or country of residence. However, companies are allowed to treat consumers in different ways, if there is an objective reason to do so. Additional costs, unmanageable for the companies, can be a reason. For example, online sellers may encounter high legal costs due to the different rules in the country they want to expand, or different VAT rules and languages. Ecommerce Europe asks the Commission to continue to recognize these reasons as valid exceptions.

Unclear non-discrimination principle creates fear among companies
The European Commission declared at the end of the conference that the non-discrimination principle is unclear, especially for businesses. This creates legal uncertainty for companies selling services online and contributes to spread the fear of an obligation to sell in every Member States, if a company decides to go cross-border. The European Commission wants to eradicate such fear factor and make European companies, especially SMEs, to sell more and more cross-border, declared Director-General Pierre Deslaux (DG Growth).

Next steps

The Commission organized this event to gather input on the problematic principle of non-discrimination. Elżbieta Bieńkowska – European Commissioner for Internal Market – will use the outcome of the conference to assess what could be done to make Article 20.2 clearer and to ensure an efficient enforcement of the Services Directive. In the future, the Commissioner will also present a report on the remaining barriers to a fully functioning internal market for services.

Ecommerce Europe continues to monitor any development regarding the Services Directive and will make sure that the interests of the sector will be taken into account.

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