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New EU Survey Shows Increased Trust and Demand in Cross-border Online Shopping

On 25 July 2017, the European Commission published its 2017 edition of the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard illustrating that increasing numbers of EU consumers are now shopping online and that trust in e-commerce has increased. This is particularly so when buying goods online from other EU countries.

Consumer Scoreboards, published every 2 years, provide an overview as to how the Single Market operates for EU consumers. These Scoreboards have been published since 2008 and aim to ensure better monitoring of consumer rights and provide evidence to develop policy.

Consumer Conditions Scoreboards monitor national conditions for consumers in three areas: knowledge and trust; compliance and enforcement; and complaints and dispute resolution. They also examine progress in the integration of the EU retail market and in e-commerce.

The Scoreboards show that consumer trust in e-commerce has increased. Within a period of ten years, the share of Europeans buying online has almost doubled, from 29.7% in 2007 to 55% in 2017. The levels of trust have increased by 12% for purchases from retailers located in the same country, and by 21% for purchases from other EU Member States.

However, Hong Kong sellers may be bemused to learn that retailers are reluctant to sell online to consumers in other EU countries. Their main concerns are high risks of fraud and differences in tax regulations. Retailers are further discouraged by differences in national contract laws, differences in national consumer protection rules, and potentially higher costs for solving disputes cross-border.

The Scoreboard reveals that one out of four consumers has experienced a problem which prevented them from completing their online cross-border purchase. In 2016, 24.2% of those shopping online from another EU country faced obstacles when buying online cross-border. The most common problem experienced by consumers was that retailers do not accept payment from the consumers’ country (12.8%).

When compared to the previous edition of the Scoreboard, consumers are now seen to be more aware of their rights. On average, 13% of consumers are aware of their key rights. This marks an increase of 3.6% since 2014. The Scoreboard notes that consumer conditions are generally better in northern and western European countries, when compared to eastern and southern nations.

Consumers are also placing more trust in companies, public authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to respect and protect their rights. 72.2% place trust in these organisations, which is an increase of 8.2% since 2014.

The 2017 Scoreboard further indicates that retailers’ knowledge of consumer rules has not improved since the previous edition. Only 53.5% of responses to questions on basic consumer rights were correct. Overall, the level of knowledge varies between countries, with (e.g.) only 36.2% of Croatian retailers knowing their rights, compared to 62.3% of retailers in Germany.

The Scoreboard’s findings illustrate that consumers are finding fewer reasons to complain, and those who have complained are satisfied with their complaint’s handling. Almost one-third of consumers opted not to complain, as they considered the sums involved to be too small (34.6%), or that the procedure would take too long (32.5%).

The Scoreboard also notes that consumer vulnerability can significantly influence consumer conditions. Consumers may perceive themselves to be vulnerable due to their financial circumstances, their employment situation, age, health problems, personal issues or belonging to a minority group.

Consumers who perceive themselves as vulnerable have less trust in organisations, safety and environmental claims. They are more likely to report having been exposed to unfair commercial practices. They are also more likely to experience problems and be less satisfied with how their complaints were handled.

Please click on the following to view the Scoreboard.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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