The below signatories call for the immediate setting up of a hospitality task force across the EU Institutions to discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on business and jobs and deliver a road map for the recovery of the hospitality sector and its value chain.
COVID-19 has hit Europe hard, taking thousands of lives, destroying families and impacting the health of many more people. We would like to first and foremost commend the hard work and diligence of Europe’s health and frontline workers, who have proven themselves the true heroes of this crisis. We wish to express our heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The arrival and distribution of successful vaccines gives us hope for 2021 and a successful recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also hit livelihoods and businesses hard, throwing Europe’s restaurants, bars, hotels, cafés, pubs and nightclubs into a deep crisis. The hospitality sector has been among the hardest hit, with businesses being forced to shut down at short notice as part of the collective fight against the virus and many workers being laid off temporarily or definitely.
It has led to a dramatic knock-on effect on its suppliers. Many actors in the food supply chain such as farmers, processors, traders, wholesalers, and food and drinks manufacturers face severe hardship. Many of these sectors are primarily made up of SMEs and these businesses are intrinsic to the functioning of the hospitality sector.
We turn towards 2021 with the core objective of creating some predictability for the hospitality sector and its supply chain, through a safe, timely and sustainable reopening as soon as the economy starts to open up again.
These hospitality businesses are part of the European social and economic fabric, bringing diversity and vitality to city centres, rural communities, villages and tourist areas across Europe. Bars, restaurants and cafés help attract people to town centre shopping districts and, likewise, these shopping destinations help bring custom to town centre hospitality venues. This is part of the European way of life, combining tourism, high quality food, services and culture.
Retailers and wholesalers working hard for sustainability, ready to work with all in a code of conduct
EuroCommerce, Euro Coop, and Independent Retail Europe today joined Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, senior MEPs and other stakeholders at an event to launch work on a code of conduct under the Farm to Fork strategy.
Retailers and wholesalers of all sizes have been in the forefront of increasing the sustainability of the products they offer. They have launched initiatives all over Europe to drive and support sustainable production and consumption by working with their suppliers, supporting farmers in moving to organic and other sustainable production methods, and innovating in offerings to consumers, including via their own brands. Retailers’ doors are open to everyone, allowing daily engagement with, and scrutiny by, consumers. The direct interface between suppliers and consumers which our sector provides offers new and rewarding market opportunities for all producers of sustainable products and can help nudge consumers towards buying them. The scale which our sector can offer to producers can also allow a wider public to buy high quality, healthy food at an affordable price.
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Speaking today after the adoption of Council conclusions on Circular Economy Action Plan, EuroCommerce Director General Christian Verschueren said:
“The conclusions drawn by Ministers echo our view that the circular economy offers major opportunities both for our sector and for society more generally. It allows everyone to rethink existing business models, offer alternative products and provide the means and support for consumers to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Our sector can help this process by working in two directions - both driving, and responding to, changes in the demands of consumers and society.”
Retailers and wholesalers have a long track record of commitment to improving the sustainability of their products and activities, and implemented numerous initiatives to achieve this. The sector has pioneered a range of actions, from fighting food waste, improving energy efficiency and resource use in their operations, reducing the amount of packaging, to companies setting clear targets to becoming carbon neutral. As societal commitment to the environment grows, the clearer it becomes that no single actor or sector can achieve these objectives alone. We will therefore need to ensure a coordinated approach involving regulators, suppliers, and actors within each sector.
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As the Commission launches its proposals for the Digital Services (DSA) and Digital Markets Acts (DMA), EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said today:
“The Commission is right to look at the rules impacting e-commerce in line with the accelerating digital transformation of our sector. Consumers must be able to trust that what they buy is safe and complies with EU rules. We are therefore encouraged that the proposed DSA seeks to ensure products offered for sale online are compliant with EU rules and that the Commission has sought to clarify the responsibilities of online marketplaces. We take note of the proposed Digital Markets Act and ask EU decision-makers to ensure that new rules provide necessary legal certainty and support strong retail and wholesale ecosystems in the EU. We will work with the Commission, Parliament and member states to take forward these two proposals in a way which aids competition, innovation and consumer protection”
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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Speaking today ahead of the Commission workshop on the results of their study on Territorial Supply Constraints (TSCs), EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We are very grateful to the Commission for following up retailers’ and wholesalers’ concerns at the fragmentation of the single market caused by large brand manufacturers simply refusing to allow them to buy their products where it makes most commercial sense. We are pleased that the study shows the facts confirming that this problem exists, and that resolving it would save consumers no less than €14 billion, and – equally important – give consumers more choice. We are therefore asking for urgent action to make the single market a reality in this area.”
Every day, large manufacturers are insisting that retailers and wholesalers buy only from their designated distributor in the country where their product is sold to the consumer. This means that retailers cannot buy centrally, nor move the products they have bought from one market they serve to branches in another. This makes no sense in a properly functioning single market, and makes no sense for consumers. It cannot be ignored any longer.
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EuroCommerce today released a study by retail payments consultancy CMSPI and antitrust and economics advisers Zephyre on the rise since the adoption of the EU Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) in the fees paid by merchants accepting card payments. EuroCommerce Director-General said:
“We have been a strong supporter of the Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) ever since its adoption in 2015, as a means of limiting the amount paid by merchants and consumers for credit or debit card transactions.Unfortunately, as we have warned before, the large international card schemes have meanwhile raised the fees not regulated by the regulation to such an extent that all the benefits to consumers and merchants have now disappeared. We are therefore asking the Commission urgently to look at action to restore the balance originally achieved by the regulation”.
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At its 2020 flagship conference today, EuroCommerce is bringing together high-level speakers from the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee, senior retail HR executives, and trade unions representatives, for an exchange on how retailers and wholesalers are keeping pace with the rapidly changing world of work. Retail and wholesale – Europe’s largest private sector employer – provide stable and fulfilling jobs for 29 million people. They have a strong track record in also equipping them with the skills they need to meet ever changing consumer demands and changes in how and what they want to buy
Addressing the conference, European Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said to retailers and wholesalers:
“Reskilling and upskilling of your workforce are going to be key for the resilience of your sector. The EU is mobilised to support the necessary effort in partnership with member states and most importantly, the private sector.”
Emphasising the important role of social dialogue, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Constructive social partnership can help the resilience of retailers and wholesalers and support and equip employees in a changing world of work. We have discussed examples of best practice today for attracting and retaining talent as well as up- and reskilling existing employees. These show that real change is often best made incrementally at the workplace level rather than through legislation. We are looking to the European Commission to leverage best practice in training to help SMEs up- and reskill their workforce. We also ask that they invest in the capacity of social partners to promote these examples through autonomous social dialogue throughout Europe.”
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EuroCommerce Director-General expressed support for the conclusions in the Commission report on the working of the Geoblocking regulation issued yesterday:
“We are pleased that the Commission has decided to leave the Geoblocking Directive unchanged until their next review in 2022. We fully support the creation of a single market for e-commerce, and call on the relevant parts of the Commission to look at the major differences in member states’ consumer rules, and risk of exposure to legal action in an unfamiliar jurisdiction. Both act as a powerful disincentive to e-traders actively expanding cross-border.”
The Geoblocking regulation adopted 2 years ago obliged online traders to sell to any consumer regardless of their location, but, due to problems relating to the Rome and Brussels regulations, did not oblige traders to deliver outside their own jurisdiction. The Commission decision to wait another 2 years before looking to revise the Geoblocking regulation makes sense, and retailers and wholesalers welcome the conclusion in the report not to change the provisions related to delivery.
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren spoke today on the publication of the Commission draft Data Governance Act, which promotes data sharing and a common European Data space:
“All sectors and ecosystems rely heavily on data, and the ability to share it safely. Our sector has acted to embrace the opportunities of the data economy to meet ever-changing consumer demands and to help us grow our businesses. The COVID crisis has accelerated the already rapid digitalisation of retail and wholesale.”
The European data economy is set to be worth more than €1,000 billion in 5 years’ time and will be a major driver of the economic growth and global competitiveness Europe needs in the coming years to overcome the crisis.
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Speaking today on the publication of a study by the European Commission on supply restrictions imposed by manufacturers which prevent retailers buying products in one country and selling them in another, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The study shows that consumers could save some € 14bn on their food bills if retailers were not constrained by these restrictions, known as Territorial Supply Constraints (TSCs). We are grateful to the Commission for having carried out this independent investigation. It sets out the facts and provides empirical evidence that TSCs are a widespread practice. It is now time for the Single Market to work for consumers in this area, and to put a hard stop to these restrictions which prevent retailers providing their customers with the full range of branded goods at the best price.”
TSCs are restrictions imposed by manufacturers that make it impossible for retailers to choose where to source products. While manufacturers can source inputs globally and focus production on a limited number of sites, retailers have no choice but to accept the manufacturer’s conditions preventing them from sourcing in one country and selling in another, forcing them to use only the manufacturers’ designated national distributor. These large manufacturers supply essential must-have products which consumers expect to find in a shop, and which retailers therefore have to stock. These are one of the main reasons why consumers pay significantly different prices across Europe for the same branded goods, with no other justification.
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EuroCommerce has been an active participant over the years in campaigns on, for example, healthyaging and dangerous substances organised by the European Occupational Safety and Health Agency OSHA.
EuroCommerce has now committed itself to participate in OSHA’s new 2020-2022 “Lighten the Load” campaign, focused on minimising work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Retailers and wholesalers are committed to ensuring the safety and health of their employees and avoiding them suffering problems from lifting loads and other risks at work. EuroCommerce has therefore pledged to support communication and dissemination activities under this OSHA Healthy Workplaces Campaign. We will discuss with our trade union colleagues in the Social Dialogue Committee on Commerce sharing best practice in the European retail and wholesale sector. The OSHA Campaign website can be accessed here.
Stronger consumer engagement helps drive the green and digital transition – Retailers will make it happenRead more
Speaking today on the launch of the Commission New Consumer Agenda, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The green and digital transition is fully underway, and is being driven in large part by consumers and what they buy. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the digital transition, making the Commission’s new agenda very timely. Retailers help by providing consumers with ever more ways of making sustainable choices and by asking suppliers for more sustainable, circular, and eco-designed products.”
Retailers need to be able to innovate and respond quickly to changes in consumer behaviour and expectations. To do so, they need a stable and predictable business and policy climate: harmonised rules – and no gold-plating by national governments – , coherent national consumer polices and effective and efficient enforcement across the EU are the best ways of ensuring this.
Legislators need to be careful not to create rigid legal obligations that increase costs and administrative burdens, with only limited benefits. Our experience has shown that sustainability needs to start in the design of the product, making it attractive to consumers. The Ecodesign Directive has already proven its value in promoting better energy consumption, repairability and recyclability, and we believe that the Commission should use this as the primary vehicle for meeting Europe’s sustainability goals. Introducing a ‘right to repair’ may not fundamentally change consumer behaviour, and raises practical questions that have not been resolved yet.