EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented on today’s publication of the European Commission “Action Plan to fight against tax evasion and to make taxation simple and easy”:
“After 27 years of the supposedly complete single market, a more harmonised taxation system remains one of its major pieces of unfinished business. It should be the easiest thing in the world to operate a company cross-border in Europe, but, on top of other barriers, a burdensome and fragmented tax bureaucracy makes this a real headache. Many governments have recognised, in the current crisis, that easing tax obligations are vital to supporting and driving economic recovery. If this is true now, it is equally important to address these barriers and burdens on a permanent basis.”
Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce today jointly launched the European Ecommerce Regional Report 2020. Growth in ecommerce sales reached €636 billion in 2019, up by 14.2% from the previous year. European ecommerce turnover is forecast to grow at around 12.7% and to hit €717 billion in 2020. The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector will, however, only show next year.
This report comes out at a time of uncertainty all over the world. The COVID-19 outbreak, and the restrictions it has led to, have had a major impact on business and consumer confidence. While physical shops have maintained supplies of essentials, ecommerce has played a crucial role in maintaining economic activity in Europe. Retailers of all sizes have accelerated their digital transformation, further developing existing and new omnichannel commerce solutions.
Luca Cassetti, Secretary General of Ecommerce Europe, commented: “We are very proud of the resilience our sector has shown these last months and are delighted to see that the ecommerce industry has been successfully contributing to keeping the Single Market open. While the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the strength of the digital commerce sector, it has also exposed the challenges online merchants still come across. Given the increasing cross-border nature of ecommerce, European businesses have struggled to implement new solutions across the Union due to regulatory fragmentation and diverging national approaches towards the crisis. In light of the current acceleration of the digital and green policy agendas, we need to step up our ambitions for building a stronger European Union with a truly harmonized Single Market.”
Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce, commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital change in retail and wholesale. This trend will continue, and to gather further speed. People are now used to buying online, and will continue to do so. Our members are responding to this, but with difficult months - and probably years - ahead, we need urgent help nationally and at EU level to boost resilience and accelerate our sector’s digital transformation.”
To obtain the full version of the report, please visit this website.
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren today welcomed the official launch of the new European Payment Initiative (EPI) consortium, to create a new unified payment scheme and solution, allow them to process instant or mobile payments, and set an alternative by-pass the major non-European card schemes.
“A new, fully European, payment scheme, independent of Visa and Mastercard, has been needed for many years in order to provide real competition. This is increasingly important now that merchants are seeing further increases in costs which are not regulated and by the reluctance of the Commission to expand the scope of the current Interchange Fee Regulation to address them. This initiative is therefore most welcome. However, at least four previous initiatives have all failed; this one will as well, if merchants, who are key to its success, are not full participants in the final solution being proposed.”
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Welcoming the updated EU Skills Agenda for Europe published today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“In our joint statement with our social partner UNI Europa at the height of the COVID crisis, we paid tribute to the millions of people working in our sector and called on national and EU authorities provide financial support in helping our workforce to up- and reskill. We will be looking to the Next Generation EU Recovery Fund, to help the retail and wholesale ecosystem in accelerating its digital and sustainability transformation and bolster its resilience in the face of the damage sustained during the crisis. One in seven Europeans works in retail or wholesale. We will need the European Social Fund and European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to be focused on helping our workforce in weathering these challenges.”
The lockdown due to the pandemic has accelerated and consolidated the shift to online sales. Employees now need to master digital systems and tools, and, in order to attract customers back into stores, to hone their interpersonal skills and the ability to offer informed advice.
Verschueren continues: “People must be equipped with the skills needed to take on new roles due to digitalisation, and to interact with new systems using blockchain and artificial intelligence. But they need also to enhancing their soft skills; retail and wholesale will remain a people’s business. So, it is about combining high tech and high touch.”
EuroCommerce Narrative on Retail and Wholesale in a changing world…
The world is changing rapidly. Retailers and wholesalers have repeatedly shown how resilient and adaptive they are, and are moving ahead with embracing this change, providing value to customers, suppliers, and society at large. This great story is worth telling – both to the sector and to the wider world. And the story needs to say clearly what we want from the EU and from national governments to make our sector sustainably competitive.
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren today expressed regret and disappointment that the Commission’s report on the functioning of the Interchange Fee Regulation did not take account of the mounting evidence of massive rises in card fees not covered by EU regulation:
“Nearly 80% of card transactions in Europe are handled by two American companies with global reach. Merchants in retail and wholesale, as well as in hospitality, tourism, and air travel, who have already been hit commercially by COVID-19, have seen these companies raise fees not covered by the Interchange Fee Regulation by some 50%. Over the last 18 months alone this has taken an additional €800 million out of the pockets of merchants, and ultimately consumers. This allows these card schemes to consolidate their position by making competing schemes less attractive to banks. We note that the Commission will continue to monitor the situation and hold a stakeholder meeting at the end of the year. We call upon the Commission to act on the basis of this new evidence, and not wait for even more economic damage to be caused by these two card schemes using their market power to extract further duopoly profits from consumers”.
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Commenting today on the publication of the Commission’s report on the functioning of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The GDPR is a major EU achievement and a valuable contribution to assuring European citizens that their personal data is being protected and properly used. This is particularly important as we see the digital transformation accelerating. We therefore see no need, only two years after the GDPR came into force, to change it. However, we want to see the Regulation better enforced, and support the Commission in calling for adequate resources for national authorities, and more consistent application of the rules. We also call for more transparency and better involvement of stakeholders in the work of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) in preparing guidelines consistent with the regulation and important to its proper implementation.”
Consumers likely to face payments problems after European Banking Authority decision on customer authorisationRead more
Speaking today, EuroCommerce Director-General warned of the consequences of the decision by the European Banking Authority (EBA) and Commission to maintain mandatory Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) by December 2020:
“The recent decision not to allow any further extension of the deadline for the mandatory introduction of SCA may mean a lot of customers finding their transactions declined and merchants losing the sale. We appreciate that the Commission and the EBA had already extended the initial deadline. But, because of the COVID crisis, many merchants, particularly small-and-medium-sized enterprises have not had the time to install and thoroughly test all the systems needed to ensure SCA will work smoothly by the December deadline. At a time when our sector and others such as hospitality and travel have been badly hit by the economic consequences of the crisis, and many organisations facing bankruptcy, this decision goes in the opposite direction to the Commission’s very welcome efforts to encourage consumption and aid the EU’s recovery.”
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As the COVID crisis subsides, and countries across Europe start to reopen their borders, we are concerned that the approach hitherto has been fragmented and creates confusion in the public and among commercial operators in the tourism and retail sector.
Apart from the drastic impact of the lockdown on non-food shops, the hospitality and catering sector and the traders supplying them, the near-disappearance of tourism and cross-border travel has severely affected shops, both food and non-food, in town centres and other areas which rely on tourism for much of their revenue, as well as shops in border areas and duty-free shops in airports.
We share with member state governments the priority of avoiding a second wave of COVID infection. But, as Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson pointed out recently, closing borders is not as effective in stopping the spread of disease as people continuing to observe strict hygiene and social distancing rules.
If people are able to move around inside a member state while observing these rules, moving across a border, whether for tourism or to shop in a neighbouring country should not make any real difference to the risk of infection.
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Speaking after President von der Leyen presented the Commission’s Recovery Plan today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We are encouraged by the Commission’s positive and ambitious approach to getting the European economy moving again after the massive damage done by the COVID virus. Non-food retailers and many wholesalers have been hard hit during the lockdown. With shops, restaurants, or construction sites closed for many weeks, and consumer confidence at an all-time low, there will be major losses and a very slow recovery. In non-food retail only, for the EU, we expect losses of at least €300 billion for 2020. Many businesses will never reopen. In Germany alone, 50,000 retail businesses are likely to go bankrupt.
This will have detrimental effects in urban and rural areas equally. Town centres will lose their meaning as business and leisure locations if we allow retailers to go to the wall. We risk not only economical, but also social dislocation, which we cannot afford, especially in these difficult times.
They need help now and until the worst of the crisis has passed. Our sector is both directly dependent on, but also a driver of the rest of the economy. Stimulating consumption will, therefore, mean support for everyone in supply chains across Europe.”
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Speaking today on the launch of the European Farm-to-Fork Strategy, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Over the months of the COVID crisis, food retailers and wholesalers have proved their essential role in delivering daily essentials to 500 million Europeans. The crisis has also shown how important cooperation between all actors of the chain was in achieving this. May this cooperation across the supply chain continue in executing this ambitious Farm-to-Fork Strategy. Europe has the richest and most diverse agri-food sector in the world. All actors need to build on this, with the support of a vibrant single market to ensure that consumers have the choice of food they want, produced in a sustainable way.”
The retail and wholesale sector has for many years sought cooperation in the supply chain to create a more sustainable food system, so that consumers can find the right products in the shops, and farmers can benefit from selling sustainable, high quality produce. The Commission rightly identifies consumers, and their choices, as the starting point for the strategy. The current health crisis has accelerated the demand for healthy and sustainable food, and we expect this to continue in the future.