Vice-President Ansip addresses parcel delivery: ‘Transparency’ buzz word of the day

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Vice President of the Commission Andrus Ansip was in attendance for a discussion on the implications of the digital single market on the parcel delivery service sector. Other speakers included J. Scott Marcus, independent policy advisor and expert in electronic communications; Jean-Paul Forceville of La Poste; and Annegret Groebel of the German regulatory board for postal services.

Mr Ansip acknowledged the lack of digital single market at present, with postal delivery services identified as one of the obstacles exacerbating the disharmony between member states. He highlighted that in a small sample survey of consumers, only one third were able to overcome such boundaries as geo-blocking, payment issues and delivery problems and engage in a successful cross-border e-shopping experience. This data confirms what Ecommerce Europe finds in its surveys and studies: Parcel delivery is consistently in the top-three of most difficult barriers for merchants to overcome when selling cross-border.

Merchants pay up to 22 times more for cross-border delivery

Zeroing in on the specific problem of parcel delivery, Ansip shed light on the Commission’s aims with its forthcoming proposal at the end of May, which is to collect data in order to better understand the vast disparities in cross-border delivery rates between member states. The Netherlands was singled out as a high performer in cross-border delivery, with rates just 1.6 times higher than domestic delivery, in comparison to an EU average of 3.4 times. However, the worst performer according to Ansip, remaining nameless, offers rates 22 times higher than domestic delivery services. The Commission hopes, by collecting pricing data for 15 services across member states, to better understand how this phenomenon occurs: is it a case of market failure? ‘Transparency’ was the buzz word of the day and the Vice President echoed Scott Marcus’ calls for data collection – the provision of which, it is hoped, will shed light on the matter.

Answering fears that demands to publish all pricing arrangements with clients would serve to degrade market mechanisms rather than upgrade them, Ansip offered assurances that it was not the Commission’s intention to see all pricing agreements with all clients of all the postal services – private business is, and will remain, private.

Are telecommunications and postal delivery comparable?

Scott Marcus drew comparisons between the telecommunications sector and the postal delivery sector – a sector in which large fees charged by native telecom companies to overseas service providers served to distort prices. Once the Commission had discovered this, it was able to combat the market failure with regulation. While little is known about the relationship between costs, wholesale prices and retail prices of cross-border delivery services, with the collection of data, more will be revealed. Jean-Paul Forceville, while also advocating transparency, rejected the comparison of the postal services sector to the telecoms sector, finding that the parallels between a labour-intensive sector and a capital-intensive sector were incompatible. For her part, Annegret Groebel echoed calls for greater transparency and data collection capacities to empower regulators to act. In spite of their differences, all three perspectives were agreed that price regulation was not to be welcomed in the sector.

Ecommerce Europe Manifesto for Better Parcel Delivery

Ecommerce Europe agrees that regulating prices as such is not the preferable approach in breaking open the cross-border parcel delivery market in Europe. Rather, the association calls for more visibility of available services to merchants as well as a more fundamental reform of the current postal and parcel market. Ecommerce Europe takes an active role in shaping this market by assuming Charimanship of several institutional committees regulating standardization. For more information on Ecommerce Europe’s work on parcel and postal services, please read the forthcoming Ecommerce Europe Manifesto for Better Parcel Delivery (available from 12 May onwards) here:

http://www.ecommerce-europe.eu/position-papers

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