Fabian Demicoli

More action needed for a true single market


Protection of consumer rights still varies greatly between EU
countries. Only 35% of Europeans are confident buying online from sellers in
other EU countries and seven out of ten consumers do not know what do to when
they receive products that they did not order.

These are among the results of the 2013 Consumer
Conditions Scoreboard published by the European Commission. The results show
that a fresh impetus is needed to ensure that consumers can buy with equal
confidence and ease across the EU, whether online or offline. One key finding
is the decrease in consumer trust matched by an increase in the use of redress.

The Maltese seen to engage a lot in cross-border
e-commerce but are not that happy with how their complaints are dealt with.

Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for Consumer
Policy welcomed the Scoreboard and said "There has been progress notably
in the spread of e-commerce but improvements are needed in other areas. The
Scoreboard shows us where we should focus our efforts. It is our window on the
market. Its outcome will be reflected in my future actions such as setting up
the online-dispute resolution platform or better enforcing rules against unfair
commercial practices."

The largest absolute increase in e-commerce between
2008 and 2012 (of more than 20 percentage points) has been noted in Belgium,
Slovakia, Malta and Sweden. In Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus, more consumers
engage in online cross-border shopping than domestically (the respective
percentages are 60% vs. 22%, 38% vs. 7% and 19 % vs. 4%).

The proportion of online cross-border shoppers has
grown in all countries since 2008. The largest increases are observed in Malta
(21 percentage points), Luxembourg (17), Belgium (16) and Finland (15). The
highest proportions of businesses (over a tenth) that engage in cross-border
sales were found in smaller countries: 13 % in Malta and Ireland, 12% in
Belgium, Lithuania and Czech Republic, 11% in Luxembourg.

At country level, web sales to consumers represent
over half of the overall turnover from the web channel in Malta (81%),
Lithuania (77 %), Bulgaria (60%), Ireland (56 %), Portugal (54 %) and France
(53%).

The majority of consumers do not agree that retailers/providers
comply with consumer legislation in the following five Member States: Greece
(60 %), Czech Republic (58 %), Bulgaria (56 %), Cyprus (54 %) and Malta (51%).

The highest level of satisfaction is noted in Sweden
and in Finland (both 77 %), Germany and Slovenia (both 75 %) while, at the
other end of the scale, less than half of consumers are satisfied with how
their complaints are dealt with in Malta (36 %) and Spain (48 %).

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