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Gaps and differences in EU member states' laws governing online trading or inconsistent enforcement of rules, as well as inadequate digital infrastructure, are preventing EU firms and citizens from reaping the full benefits of the digital single market and causing the EU to fall behind the global competition, say Internal Market Committee MEPs in a non-binding resolution voted on Thursday.

The non-binding resolution, drafted by Pablo Arias Echeverría (EPP, SP), analyses and sets out proposals to remove obstacles to greater use of the digital single market.

One proposal is to introduce a "European Trustmark" certifying that that an online shop fully complies with EU law. This should make the online market more transparent for consumers and boost confidence in online shopping, says the committee.

Only around 7% of internet users have ever placed a cross-border order within the EU. This reluctance to buy across borders not only deprives Europe's consumers of single market benefits such as a wider choice of goods and lower prices, but also impedes its economic growth.

Improving delivery and safety

Barriers to cross-border goods delivery services also prevent EU consumers from shopping on the internet. Worries about the reliability of delivery prevent almost one in two from shopping online across borders. 

MEPs stress the importance of ensuring reliability, speed of delivery and efficient return systems, which they say are best promoted by free and fair competition. Measures to ensure reasonably-priced delivery to remote or outlying areas should also be considered, they add.

The committee also calls on the Commission and EU member states to develop and implement measures to complete a neutral and safe EU regulatory framework for online and mobile payments.

Digital growth promoters for small firms

MEPs also call for an "action plan" to integrate small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which form the backbone of the EU economy, into the digital single market. "In Europe there are 23 million SMEs, making up 99% of companies settled in the continent",  says Mr Echeverría, adding that "these small businesses employ 85% of the workers and are the main engine to economic growth, innovation and employment in the euro zone".

They also call on the Commission to develop a strategy to boost digital entrepreneurship, promote training for online traders and encourage digital development programmes for SMEs.

Mr Echeverría, whose resolution on obstacles to the digital single market is scheduled for a plenary vote in November, also coordinates an Internal Market Committee working group on the digital single market and e-commerce. (see press kit)

The resolution was adopted with 32 votes in favour and 2 against.

In the chair: Committee Chair Malcolm Harbour  (ECR, UK)