EU wants easier cross-border e-shopping

The current legislation denies consumers choice, opportunity and competitive prices

The European Commission (EC) wants to revise consumer rights laws to make it easier for Europeans to shop on websites based in another member state.

According to the EC, e-commerce is made difficult by conflicting national laws in EU member states. It hopes to "bring the law in line with technological developments" and change national legislation affecting consumer rights.

Meglena Kuneva, EU commissioner for consumer affairs, said that Europe risks lagging behind other regions if consumer rights legislation isn't updated.

"We must find new solutions to new challenges," Kuneva said. "The question is can we afford to have 27 mini-online markets in Europe, denying consumers choice, opportunity and competitive prices? We need to inject a new sense of consumer confidence into the e-shopping world so it becomes a trusted space. The rules of the game have changed; it's time for consumer policy to respond."

Consumer organisations in the EU member states receive thousands of complaints about shopping from foreign websites every year, according to the EC. Almost half (46 per cent) concern delivery of items, whilst 25 per cent are about defective goods, or goods that didn't match the description customers had been given.

A major issue to be addressed by the EC is returns of items bought. National laws currently vary on who should pay for returned items and what the procedure is. The EC will try to create one law on the issue of refunds and price reductions in the case of faulty goods.

Only about 6 per cent of EU citizens currently shop online from international websites, Kuneva said. She said more needs to be done to make shoppers "comfortable enough in the digital and online world."