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Procedure : 2013/2043(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0024/2014

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Debates :

PV 03/02/2014 - 22
CRE 03/02/2014 - 22

Votes :

PV 04/02/2014 - 8.6
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Texts adopted
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Tuesday, 4 February 2014 - Strasbourg
Integrated parcel delivery market for the growth of e-commerce

European Parliament resolution of 4 February 2014 on an integrated parcel delivery market for the growth of e-commerce in the EU (2013/2043(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which commits the Union to working for ‘a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment’,

–  having regard to Article 9 TFEU, which establishes that ‘in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health’,

–  having regard to Article 11 TFEU, which stipulates that ‘environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development’,

–  having regard to Article 12 TFEU, which stipulates that ‘consumer protection requirements shall be taken into account in defining and implementing other Union policies and activities’,

–  having regard to Article 14 TFEU and Protocol 26 thereto on services of general (economic) interest,

–  having regard to Article 26 TFEU, which stipulates that ‘the internal market shall comprise an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties’,

–  having regard to Articles 49 and 56 TFEU on the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services within the Union,

–  having regard to Articles 101 and 102 TFEU on the rules on competition applying to undertakings,

–  having regard to Article 169 TFEU on promoting the interests of consumers and ensuring a high level of consumer protection,

–  having regard to Directive 97/67/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, as amended by Directive 2002/39/EC and 2008/6/EC, on postal services,

–  having regard to Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular e‑commerce, in the Internal Market,

–  having regard to Directive 2013/11/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 524/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC,

–  having regard to Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights, amending Council Directive 93/13/EEC and Directive 1999/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Council Directive 85/577/EEC and Directive 97/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council,

–  having regard to the Commission Green Paper of 29 November 2012 on ‘An integrated parcel delivery market for the growth of e-commerce in the EU’ (COM(2012)0698),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 16 December 2013 entitled ‘A roadmap for completing the single market for parcel delivery. Build trust in delivery services and encourage online sales’ (COM(2013)0886),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 23 April 2013 entitled ‘E‑commerce action plan 2012- 2015 – State of play 2013’ (SWD(2013)0153),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 11 January 2012 entitled ‘A coherent framework for building trust in the Digital Single Market for e-commerce and online services’ (COM(2011)0942),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 18 December 2012 entitled ‘The Digital Agenda for Europe – driving European growth digitally’ (COM(2012)0784),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 August 2010 entitled ‘A Digital Agenda for Europe’ (COM(2010)0245),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 7 December 2012 entitled ‘Consumer Markets Scoreboard – Making markets work for consumers – Eighth edition’ (SWD(2012)0432),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 May 2012 to Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘A European Consumer Agenda – Boosting confidence and growth’ (COM(2012)0225),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 23 February 2011 entitled ‘The review of the “Small Business Act” for Europe’ (COM(2011)0078),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 9 January 2013 entitled ‘Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan – Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe’ (COM(2012)0795),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 9 November 2011 entitled ‘Small business, big world – A new partnership to help SMEs seize global opportunities’ (COM(2011)0702),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 28 November 2012 entitled ‘Annual Growth Survey 2013’ (COM(2012)0750),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020 – a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 27 October 2010 to Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Towards a Single Market Act – For a highly competitive social market economy – 50 proposals for improving our work, business and exchanges with one another’ (COM(2010)0608),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 October 2012 to Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Single Market Act II’ (COM(2012)0573),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 April 2011 to Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Single Market Act - Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence’ (COM(2011)0206),

–  having regard to the Commission White Paper of 28 March 2011 entitled ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area’ (COM(2011)0144),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 18 October 2007 entitled ‘The EU’s freight transport agenda: Boosting the efficiency, integration and sustainability of freight transport in Europe’ (COM(2007)0606),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 31 May 2012 on the ‘Digital Single Market and Governance of the Single Market’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 July 2013 on completing the digital single market(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2012 on completing the digital single market(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 21 September 2010 on completing the internal market for e-commerce(3),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 6 April 2011 on ‘a Single Market for Europeans(4)’, on ‘a Single Market for Enterprises and Growth(5)’, and on ‘Governance and Partnership in the Single Market(6)’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 June 2013 on a new agenda for European Consumer Policy(7),

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (A7-0024/2014),

A.  whereas e-commerce is a channel with enormous potential to combat the economic and financial crisis, strengthen the single market, and create economic growth and employment across the European Union; whereas the Commission’s communication on e-commerce and online services of January 2012 identifies the delivery of goods purchased online as one of the top five priorities for boosting e-commerce by 2015, and its importance has been reiterated by the Council and by Parliament;

B.  whereas the EU e-commerce market grew by over 20% in 2012; whereas cross-border e-commerce in particular is predicted to multiply by a factor of four; whereas the parcel delivery market is undergoing radical transformations, with new providers entering the market, investment oriented towards innovation, and new services emerging;

C.  whereas efficient and reliable delivery services are a critical pillar of a real and effective digital single market, having a substantial impact in terms of facilitating e-commerce and building trust between sellers and buyers;

D.  whereas cross-border delivery is considered to be an obstacle by 57 % of retailers, while one in two consumers declare they are worried about delivery in cross-border transactions; whereas delivery concerns (including product returns) and high delivery costs are the top two concerns of consumers in relation to online shopping, contributing to low consumer confidence in cross-border e-commerce;

E.  whereas in order to overcome this situation it is vital to boost consumers’ confidence in delivery operators and services, trust in the market and knowledge of their rights and obligations, by ensuring more information, greater ease of understanding, and greater transparency regarding the conditions of delivery;

F.  whereas SMEs seeking business opportunities across the EU are confronted with higher costs, greater complexity and a lack of transparency when it comes to cross-border delivery; whereas prices for cross-border delivery are three to five times higher than domestic prices; whereas effective, simple and affordable delivery systems are a key driver of the sustainability of the business models of SMEs and their ability to supply products to customers;

Integrated delivery services in Europe: a pillar for the Digital Single Market

1.  Stresses that accessible, affordable, efficient, and high-quality delivery services are an essential element in the online purchasing of goods and must be promoted by ensuring free and fair competition; notes, however, that many consumers are reluctant to buy online, especially cross-border, because of uncertainties relating to the delivery options available, final delivery, delivery costs or reliability;

2.  Welcomes the Green Paper launched by the Commission to identify possible shortcomings in the European delivery market, and calls on the Commission to take appropriate action to address these in a way that will allow both businesses and consumers to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by the digital single market; stresses that any proposed action should take into account the sustainability of the delivery process and seek to minimise its environmental footprint;

3.  Notes cross-border weaknesses in competition between delivery operators in some Member States and deplores the lack of transparency on the pricing conditions and performance of the services concerned; believes, in particular, that tools must be put in place to provide information on offers by all European delivery operators;

Putting consumer interests at the heart of the delivery process

4.  Stresses the importance of increasing consumer confidence in the delivery process; considers more transparency and better and more readily comparable information on available delivery options, prices and conditions to be paramount for consumers, specifically with respect to the conditions under which consumer orders are shipped and the procedures to follow in case of damage to or loss of goods or delay in their delivery or return;

5.  Emphasises that it is necessary to promote measures aimed at ensuring consumer choice at the time of purchase; notes the significant gap between consumer expectations and the availability of convenient, innovative services such as relay points or parcel kiosks, or terminals, round-the-clock services available at any time, track-and-trace solutions, consumer-friendly delivery places and times, or easy return policies;

6.  Stresses that reliability of delivery services is crucial and that it is essential to offer efficient systems that guarantee that parcels effectively reach the requested destination within a reasonable timeframe;

7.  Points out that the high cost of cross-border delivery or delivery to remote areas or the outermost regions is one of the main reasons for consumer dissatisfaction; stresses that more affordable delivery options for consumers and sellers, SMEs included, are imperative if long-distance sales and purchases are to increase and there is to be any point in talking of a genuinely single market;

8.  Stresses the need to improve geographical coverage and accessibility to universal service for delivery of parcels in rural and remote areas;

9.  Considers that in order to establish an Integrated Single Market for parcel delivery, it is important to have a stable and coherent social dimension, where delivery services are subject to compliance with labour rights, terms of employment and remuneration and social and environmental standards; notes in this respect that undeclared employment as well as abuses are a risk to the sector and that responsible, high quality employment and on-going, adequate training of staff is important in achieving high quality delivery services; stresses that keeping both the social dimension and allowing enough flexibility of the delivery market to evolve and adapt to technological innovations are key to fully satisfying consumer demands and expectations while allowing enterprises to offer them better products that fully meet their needs and expectations;

10.  Draws attention to the importance of legal certainty for ensuring consumer confidence; stresses, in this connection, the importance of consumers being properly informed on the applicable legislation;

11.  Believes that the development of cross‑border online trade also depends on customer confidence, and that the creation of a European network of national problem‑solving centres like Solvit would help reassure consumers, as would an alert system like RAPEX, which could warn consumers of sites found to be using fraudulent practices;

12.  Notes that increasing numbers of consumers use comparison websites to compare prices, features or terms of delivery of products and services offered by parcel delivery firms, especially with regard to e-commerce; calls on the Commission to adopt EU guidelines on minimum standards for comparison websites, structured around the core principles of transparency, impartiality, quality, information and user-friendliness;

13.  Calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the industry and consumer organisations, to draw up joint delivery service quality indicators, enabling consumers to compare different offers more accurately;

Creating a level playing field for SMEs

14.  Highlights the vital role of SMEs in creating growth, innovation, and employment, in particular youth employment; stresses that delivery services are of extreme importance for European SMEs, and that an integrated competitive delivery market ensuring different delivery and logistic support options at affordable prices is a precondition for accessing new markets and reaching more consumers within the EU; stresses the importance of improving the information flow to SMEs concerning possibilities for consolidating their parcel volumes and about innovative delivery and pick-up solutions that would reduce the cost for the last stage of delivery;

15.  Emphasises that business and SMEs in particular need to be able to respond to the needs and expectations of consumers with simpler, faster, more affordable, transparent, reliable and efficient shipping services in the context of cross-border e-commerce; stresses that delivery solutions that do not meet consumer expectations have a direct impact on a business’s brand name, image and competitiveness;

16.  Notes the limited cross-border development of e-commerce by SMEs; encourages collaboration between SMEs as well as via their representative bodies to negotiate more advantageous delivery prices, notably through the introduction of shared online platforms, and to improve the quality of their services;

17.  Is concerned about the disadvantages which SMEs encounter due to their small size; stresses that SMEs are currently confronted with higher costs, great complexity due to the fragmented European market, and a lack of information on available delivery options and prices;

Towards innovative and interoperable solutions for a truly European delivery market

18.  Notes the fragmentation of the European postal sector into national networks with poor interoperability and the lack of integration of road, rail and water transport; welcomes the steps already taken by delivery market operators to introduce arrangements geared more closely to the needs of online retailers and consumers, such as more flexible delivery and return options; calls on the Commission to continue to propose measures to encourage industry to improve interoperability and accelerate the roll-out of streamlined parcel dispatch and collection processes aimed at reducing costs, increasing economies of scale for delivery operators, encouraging the grouping of small shipments and hence quantity discounts for small traders, increasing the availability and quality of delivery services, and offering affordable flexible shipping rates to consumers and businesses alike;

19.  Believes that in this regard collaboration within the industry on interoperable cross-border track-and-trace systems is of particular importance; encourages the Commission to explore further the potential of developing European standards to improve integrated tracking systems and to promote the quality, reliability and sustainability of integrated logistic services applied to electronic commerce;

20.  Highlights that easier collection and return solutions are already playing a significant role in the growth of e-commerce and could in future lead to lower prices and greater consumer satisfaction, especially in cross-border transactions; encourages further collaboration to improve the interoperability of call-centres dedicated to consumer complaints;

21.  Calls on the Commission to create platforms for cooperation and information exchange between delivery operators in order to promptly address the existing gaps in the EU delivery market in terms of innovation, flexibility, stock management, transport, collection and return of parcels, while respecting EU competition law, and discuss the possibility of infrastructure sharing by express and postal mail services to their mutual advantage;

22.  Calls on the Commission to work together with business towards the adoption of European standards on addressing and labelling, as well as e-commerce-friendly letter-box standards;

23.  Calls on the Commission to explore the possibilities of creating a Pan-European Trustmark for e-Commerce, and whether such a Trustmark could also contribute to ensuring quality and reliability for integrated delivery services thus ensuring consumer confidence in cross-border e-commerce, could stimulate e-retailers and parcel firms to boost transparency as well as legal certainty for both consumers and businesses, and could increase the competitive advantage of businesses, especially SMEs, therefore contributing to sound economic growth and employment creation; stresses that in order to be effective, such a Trustmark should be based on a set of minimum standardised features and transparent provisions for consumer protection and information, as well as requirements for complaints handling and dispute resolution procedures;

24.  Stresses that the protection of an individual’s personal data, and data protection in general, is of paramount importance and that any new measures taken should be subject to EU data protection legislation and in particular to Directive 95/46/EC;

Monitoring market development and improving regulatory oversight

25.  Recognises the dynamic nature of the parcel delivery market, with new services and operators emerging rapidly; notes that innovative solutions responding to the needs of e-retailers and customers are likely to become a key differentiator for competition; considers that any legislative measures should be carefully assessed in advance in order to avoid impairing the dynamism of the parcel delivery market which should not be hampered by over-regulation; calls on the Commission to monitor the development of the market carefully, in order to identify any areas of potential market failure where further action may become necessary in the future; stresses in this context that market monitoring should take into account not only established postal operators but also other types of delivery service providers;

26.  Points out that there is already an appropriate regulatory framework, and calls on Member States and the Commission to ensure that the existing regulatory framework is fully transposed, implemented and enforced, with particular attention to the Postal Services Directive, EU competition law, the Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution, and the Consumer Rights Directive, in particular as regards the formal requirements for distance contracts;

27.  Highlights that the effective enforcement of the legal framework also depends on the surveillance by national regulators of the legal obligations of postal operators, in particular regarding the universal service obligation under Directive 97/67/EC;

28.  Observes that complicated provisions concerning Value Added Tax are a significant obstacle to small businesses trading across borders; calls on the Commission to submit the promised proposal on the introduction of a uniform VAT declaration as soon as possible;

29.  Stresses that an optional European contract law for contracts between undertakings and consumers would result in perceptible simplification and encourage more SMEs to send parcels internationally; calls on the Member States to pursue the current negotiations concerning the European Sales Law in a constructive spirit;

o   o

30.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0327.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0468.
(3) OJ C 50 E, 21.2.2012, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 296 E, 2.10.2012, p. 59.
(5) OJ C 296 E, 2.10.2012, p. 70.
(6) OJ C 296 E, 2.10.2012, p. 51.
(7) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0239.

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