October 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

E-commerce hurdles remain across borders in Europe

In a study aimed at quantifying the difficulty of shopping online across borders in the European Union, EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva found that roughly 60% of attempted transactions were blocked by the retail site’s infrastructure.

In a study aimed at quantifying the difficulty of shopping online across borders in Europe, European Union Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva found that 60% of attempted transactions were blocked by the retail site’s infrastructure. For some computer and electronic equipment retailers the failure rate reached 80%.

The study, a follow-up to a March report that found the EU had made little headway in facilitating cross-border e-commerce, notes that while 50% of European retailers are online, only 21% sell to consumers in other EU states. Moreover, more than 150 million EU citizens shop online, but only 7% shop online across borders.

To reach her conclusions, Kuneva and her staff searched for specific models of books, computers, household equipment and other products typically bought online. They found that more than half of EU consumers can find prices more than 10% less than domestic sites for at least half of the products searched-even with shipping costs.

The obstacles to cross-border web shopping also prevent some EU citizens from purchasing products unavailable in their own countries. For instance, the study found that in Belgium, 66% of the goods searched were not available online from domestic retailers but could be found on web sites of other EU states.

“As we stand today, we cannot shop cross-border online within the EU,” said Kuneva in a press conference last week. “There is no European retail market online but instead 27 inefficient mini-markets. We have the technology for a big market but not the trade. And this is generating a lot of frustration among European citizens who expect and deserve better.”

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