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    E-commerce in Europe stable since 2014

    Last year, 16% of enterprises located in the EU and employing at least 10 persons had received orders via a website or via apps. In Belgium web sales were used by 21 % of the enterprises. According to figures released yesterday by Eurostat, web sales were used by about a quarter of enterprises in Ireland (26%), Sweden (25%) and Denmark (24%), ahead of the Netherlands (22%) and Belgium (21%).

    At the opposite end of the scale, web sales concerned 1 in 10 enterprises or fewer in Romania (7%), Bulgaria and Poland (both 9%), Italy and Latvia (both 10%).

    Web sales include both sales to individual consumers and to other enterprises. The share of EU enterprises making web sales rose from 12% in 2010 to around 16% in 2014, since when it has been relatively stable.

    Among those EU enterprises with web sales in 2016, nearly all (97%) sold to their own country, while less than half (44%) sold to customers located in other EU Member States and over a quarter (28%) to non-EU customers.

    Web sales may offer businesses the means for expanding beyond national borders and reaching customers (businesses or consumers) regardless of their geographical location.

    Yet, almost 2 in every 5 EU enterprises with web sales to other EU Member States in 2016 reported difficulties in doing so, notably due to the costs of delivering and/or the linguistic barriers.

    To address this problem, EU negotiators reached this week a provisional agreement to make prices for cross-border parcel delivery services more transparent and affordable and to increase regulatory oversight of the EU parcel market.

    The new regulation aims at boosting e-commerce to allow companies, in particular SMEs, to buy and sell products and services online more easily and confidently across the EU.

    While the regulation does not impose a cap on prices, it is expected to foster competitive pressure by allowing users to easily compare domestic and cross-border tariffs. Regulatory oversight on national level will also be improved.

    The new regulation is expected to formally enter into force at the beginning of next year and it will be fully applicable in 2019.

    Maria Novak
    The Brussels Times