The European Commission has recently published its 2016 Consumer Markets Scoreboard which monitors EU consumers’ ratings of how 42 goods and services markets work. The Consumer Scoreboards are used by national policymakers and stakeholders to assess the impact of policy over time and compare the situation between Member States. The Commission uses the findings of the scoreboard as evidence to develop its policy.
These ratings show that market’s performance has improved since the last scoreboard in 2014. However, market performance remains uneven between Member States and different sectors across the EU. It shows that there is still room for improvement through national structural reforms and a more effective enforcement of the consumer protection rules, which would also contribute to the competitiveness of EU businesses.
The postal services market is strong on trust but must adapt to increased e-commerce
Concerning e-commerce, the Scoreboard reports that the postal services market is strong on trust but must adapt to increased e-commerce, including cross-border. In comparison with others services markets, the postal sector has a higher proportion of consumers having experienced problems and a lower reported detriment. The trust and expectations components are above average, but choice and comparability are below the services markets average. The parcel markets on the other hand are growing as domestic and cross-border e-commerce increases. But concerns persist about the cross-border parcel market, which the Commission has committed to address in the context of the Digital Single Market Strategy by adopting a proposal for a Regulation with a view to improve price transparency and regulatory oversight of cross-border parcel delivery.
Ecommerce Europe is also actively putting forward innovative solutions for a better parcel delivery market with its newly published Manifesto, which is focused on harmonization, labeling and interoperability. Although Ecommerce Europe supports the Commission’s proposal, regulatory price oversight may be difficult to implement in the Member States. As a result, Ecommerce Europe strongly supports standardization, and is actively proposing solutions through its work in the European Standardization Committee on Postal Services (CEN/TC331). Ecommerce Europe is convinced that standardization will bring new technology solutions into the market, providing for better price oversight. This will require providers to adjust themselves in order to compete with each other.
The report also states the importance of increasing comparability in order to mitigate consumer vulnerability, for example through comparison tools. Investments in initiatives at EU level aimed at enhancing the transparency of consumer markets and thus reducing search costs and boosting consumers’ ability to evaluate alternative offers therefore remain important. The study suggests that ensuring that information is presented in a salient and accessible way, raising awareness of tools that can facilitate comparison in markets, and increasing consumer awareness of market conditions, may be effective in mitigating vulnerability.
The Digital Single Market Strategy supports developments online that increase consumer choice
The e-commerce sector both nationally and across borders has been boosted by the development of digital technologies, thus increasing the number of retailers and service providers and associated offers to consumers. However, the Commission has identified a number of obstacles to cross-border e-commerce. In its Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission set a roadmap with key initiatives to bring down these obstacles. This is in particular the objective of the two proposals on fully harmonized consumer contract rules for the supply of digital content and for the online and other distance sales of goods. These proposals aim to substantially improve consumers’ access to offers cross-border, also boosting competitiveness. Overall, Ecommerce Europe believes that the European Commission has made a first good step to foster cross-border online sales, even though fundamental changes in the proposals must be made, especially concerning their scope and other provisions related to the legal guarantee period (click here for more information).
More information can be found in the full report of the Commission, available here.