For the first time in its history, Ecommerce Europe hosted the Global Ecommerce Summit, which took place in Barcelona from 12 – 14 June. As part of its newly redesigned integrated program, Ecommerce Europe hosted four dedicated policy discussions on consumer policies, VAT, digital currencies and blockchain and parcel delivery in the aptly named Policy Arena.
With legal fragmentation of consumer rights legislation persisting as online merchants’ number one barrier when selling goods and/or services cross-border, an expert panel of policy makers and industry stakeholders, moderated by Ecommerce Europe’s Marc Lolivier, focused on “changing consumer legislation in Europe: retailer and consumer rights”, during Tuesday’s opening panel discussion.
“We have reached full level of harmonization, but challenges persist”
In her opening presentation of the European Commission’s recently concluded REFIT exercise of six consumer rights directives, Veronica Manfredi, Head of the Unit for Consumer and Marketing Law with DG Justice, stated that, despite difficulties to bring Member States together, a full level of harmonization in consumer rights had been achieved over past years. In addition, the fitness check concluded that, since their implementation, consumers had becoming more aware of their rights, resulting in trust in e-commerce increasing by about 20%.
However, challenges of ensuring uniform rules on contract law persist particularly in the ongoing discussions on the digital contracts proposal, the proposal on the online sale of tangible goods and ensuring transparency in online platforms. While the other panelists, Gabriele Sibio of Anorra, Ecommerce Europe Senior Policy Advisor Léon Mölenberg and Justin MacMullan of consumer advocacy group Consumer International agreed with the Commission proposals, they highlighted that there remained a number of remaining outstanding challenges which would have to be addressed at the same time as consumers expect to enjoy equal rights for online and offline sales.
Trust the most valuable currency in e-commerce
The underlying theme of the panel discussion centred around the need to build trust not only in e-commerce, but the wider digital economy. According to Justin MacMullan, with high numbers of consumer continuing to show perceptions of mistrust in the digital economy, both EU-legislative and industry initiatives such as the Ecommerce Europe Trustmark are crucial in building transparency, customer confidence and trust between online retailers and their customers.
In their concluding remarks, the panelists stressed the need to build a real, fully functioning, integrated and efficient Digital Single Market to enable the growing digital economy and allow European online merchants to compete with their global counterparts.