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Plenary focus: Strasbourg plenary session 10-13 December

E-commerce: "We cannot afford the luxury of having a fragmented market"

Pablo Arias Echeverría smiles as his report has been approved   Pablo Arias Echeverría after his report was approved in plenary

Consumers are increasingly shopping online, but e-commerce in Europe is far from reaching its full potential.  Rules on VAT and consumer protection differ between member states and there is still a lack of trust in payment and delivery systems. A report adopted by MEPs on 11 December sets out what can be done to overcome these problems and complete the digital market in the EU.

"In this time of crisis, we cannot afford the luxury of having a fragmented market with 27 different sets of legislation on VAT,intellectual property rights and data protection as this represents a massive cost for our small and medium-sized companies," said Spanish Christian Democrat Pablo Arias Echeverría, who wrote the report.

His report makes recommendations on how to make the best out of the social, economic and technological developments of the digital era:

  • Plans should be developed by the Commission and member states to improve small and medium-sized companies' access to ICT infrastructure,including high-speed broadband access, and help them acquire the necessary skills to use the Internet effectively
  • The Commission should identify existing barriers to cross-border delivery services; address concerns about security and cost of cross-border payments; and modernise the legal framework for intellectual property rights
  • European Trustmarks should be introduced to guarantee that a business operating online fully respects EU law
  • The Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution mechanisms, which have already been proposed by the Commission, should be set up to function efficiently
  • VAT rates for digital books and other electronic cultural should be reduced.