In the context of its Digital single Market strategy, adopted on 6 May 2015, the European Commission launched a sector inquiry into e-commerce in the EU.
315 Million Europeans use the internet every day , however, only 15% of the population shopped online from a trader of goods or a provider of services based in another Member State. There are a number of reasons which can explain the slow uptake of cross-border e-commerce in the EU, including language barriers, consumer preferences and differences in legislation across Member States. However, there are also indications that undertakings active in e-commerce may restrict cross-border online trade within the EU by deliberately creating private – and in particular contractual – barriers as, for istance, the contractual restrictions in distribution agreements forcing retailers to supply services cross-border.
The purpose of the sector inquiry, which will focus on those goods and services in which e-commerce is most widespread such as electronics, clothing and shoes, as well as digital content, is to gain more market knowledge in order to better understand the nature, prevalence and effects of these and similar barriers erected by companies that hinder cross-border e-commerce and to assess them in the light of EU antitrust rules.
In the coming weeks, the Commission will send requests for information to a range of stakeholders throughout the EU. The companies concerned may include, for example, manufacturers and wholesalers as well as e-commerce retailers. Under EU antitrust rules the Commission can require companies and trade associations to supply information, documents or statements as part of a sector inquiry.
Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said, "If they are anti-competitive we will not hesitate to take enforcement action under EU antitrust rules."