The European Commission has unveiled an action plan for doubling the volume of e-commerce in Europe by 2015. It says the internet economy creates 2.6 jobs for every offline job lost.
The EU said today that the gains brought by lower online prices and a wider choice of available products and services are estimated at €11.7bn, equivalent to 0.12pc of European GDP.
If 15pc of retail sales were e-commerce and the obstacles to the internal market were removed, the gains for consumers might be as much as €204bn, or 1.7pc of European GDP.
The commission warned, however, that there are many obstacles preventing consumers and businesses from investing fully in online services: ignorance or uncertainty about the applicable rules, offers that lack transparency and are hard to compare, and payments and modes of delivery that are often expensive and unsuitable.
The new action plan includes 16 targeted initiatives aimed at doubling the share of e-commerce in retail sales (currently 3.4pc) and that of the internet sector in European GDP (currently less than 3pc) by 2015.
By that year, online trade and services could account for more than 20pc of growth and net job creation in some Member States (such as France, Germany and Sweden).
Michel Barnier, commissioner for the Internal Market, Neelie Kroes, commission vice-president responsible for the Digital Agenda, and John Dalli, commissioner for Consumer Policy, expressed their ambitious objective in these terms: "In the difficult circumstances facing Europe we must seize every source of activity and new jobs as a matter of urgency.
“The action plan we are presenting today will create new opportunities for citizens and businesses and will bring Europe much-needed growth and employment. It aims to remove the obstacles which until now have frustrated the development of Europe’s internet economy."
The European Commission has identified five main obstacles that must be overcome:
- The supply of legal, cross-border online services is still inadequate
- There is not enough information for online service operators or protection for internet users
- Payment and delivery systems are still inadequate
- There are too many cases of abuse and disputes that are difficult to settle
- Insufficient use is made of high-speed communication networks and high-tech solutions
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