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.
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.
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.
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.
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Speaking on the publication of the European Commission proposal on a ‘single window’ for customs today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented:
“Together with digitalisation of customs procedures, the Single Window will be a major help to businesses trading cross-border to reduce compliance costs and speed up customs processing. With business suffering under COVID, this is a very welcome step towards modernising customs and reducing regulatory burdens”.
The Commission proposal will eventually enable economic operators to electronically lodge all the information required by customs and non-customs legislation for EU cross-border movements of goods through a single portal. The Commission has recognised the importance of better exchange of information and an improved risk assessment in its Customs Union Action Plan. This should help ensure that goods entering the EU are correctly imported and safe, and that fraud on products imported from third countries (customs duties and VAT) is significantly reduced. In this context, retailers and wholesalers attach very great importance to the proper implementation of the VAT e-commerce package on 1 July 2021 (already delayed from 1 January 2021 because of COVID-19), as agreed unanimously by all Member States.
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Reacting today to the Commission draft directive on EU rules for setting minimum wages, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Retailers and wholesalers value their employees highly, and always seek to properly reward their hard work. This hard work was clearly demonstrated during the height of the COVID crisis in maintaining reliable supplies of essentials despite disruption and unprecedented demand. We pay well above the minimum rates on average where countries set these by legislation, and engage positively in collective bargaining where that is the norm. We therefore see no need, nor the possibility under the Treaty, to set rules on pay and collective bargaining at EU level.”
Retail and wholesale are Europe’s largest private-sector employer, providing 29 million direct jobs, including many opportunities for women and young people. We support proper employee protection and national minimum wages in countries, in accordance with national law and practice. We believe that wages should be set at the closest possible level to the workplace to adequately respond to the fundamental and rapid changes in our sector, accelerated by the pandemic. How this works and best practice in our sector, see our Policy Guidance on the Future of Work in Retail and Wholesale).
The social dimension of A European Pact for Commerce: Recovery priorities for the retail and wholesale ecosystemRead more
In our joint statement of 8 April, we highlighted the unprecedented impact of the COVID crisis on the viability of retailers and wholesalers and the resilience of their workforce. The tradition of social partnership and the prevalence of tailored working arrangements in our sector, often through collective agreements, have enabled companies to deal effectively with the sudden and radical adaptation to the ‘new normal’. The social partners are now proposing “A European Pact for Commerce” to EU and governmental authorities to help the sector improve its long-term resilience through targeted support measures and by accelerating the digital and green transitions.
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In her State of the Union speech on 16 September, Commission President von der Leyen said:
“We must tear down the barriers of the Single Market. We must cut red tape. We must step up implementation and enforcement. And we must restore the four freedoms – in full and as fast as possible. The linchpin of this is a fully functioning Schengen area of free movement.”
The Commission has proposed a Council Recommendation (COM(2020) 499) with some helpful ideas on a common approach to dealing with a possible second wave of COVID-19 or future pandemics and avoid piecemeal border closures based on widely differing criteria for assessing risk.
Ahead of the European Council this week, the organisations below call upon Europe’s leaders to agree to establish such a common approach.
We fully support measures to contain the spread of the virus and the need for action by national governments to protect their citizens. However, the actions of some governments in maintaining major restrictions on European citizens moving from other EU member states can often seem haphazard, and ultimately damaging to the European economy. It makes little sense in terms of containing the virus to prevent travel from another member state with a similar level of infection if the member state taking that action still allows travel within its borders.
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Speaking today on the UN First International Day on Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gas. Wasting food means wasting all the inputs and work which has gone into producing it. This is bad for people and bad for the planet. Retailers and wholesalers have been active for many years in helping to combat food waste – both in working with suppliers, donating food to those in need, and in informing and supporting consumers. We therefore welcome the profile which the international community is giving today to food loss and waste, and the commitment of all actors in the food supply chain is showing to tackle this issue” .
Retailers and wholesalers are actively participating in a wide range of individual and joint initiatives to reduce food waste significantly by 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goal 12. Since our sector committed to the Retail Agreement on Waste in 2012, it has drastically reduced food waste in store, and worked to achieve similar reductions throughout their logistics and supply chain. The work of actors in the supply chain in this initiative has led to a set of cross-sectoral recommendations to continue this joint effort.
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Speaking today on the launch of the Commission’s communication on a Retail Payments Strategy for the EU, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The COVID pandemic has accelerated the existing trend for transactions to go online. At the moment, this inevitably means more use of credit and debit cards. Retailers and other merchants already pay a lot for accepting cards, and even more if a transaction is online. We are seeing, despite very welcome action on some card fees under EU legislation, other unregulated fees rising as much as 150% over the last 18 months. This has cost merchants, already struggling due to COVID, nearly €1 billion extra, and this trend looks likely to continue. We therefore welcome the Commission commitment in today’s communication to promote alternative payment systems. But these will take at least another 2-4 years to roll out, and merchants need urgent action now to address this growing problem.”
Creating a vibrant, competitive and robust European payments market is in everyone’s interest, as well as keeping access open to all alternatives, including cash. We are therefore very pleased to see the Retail Payments Strategy, and recently welcomed the announced collaboration between European banks in the European Payments Initiative. We fully share the Commission’s determination to get competition in retail payments moving through use of instant payment technology such as SCTInst and new applications for mobile payments, already important as people increasingly move to buying goods and services on their mobile phones.
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Speaking today at a virtual conference held by the World Retail Congress, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren set out the challenges facing retail across Europe and the vital role of the sector in supporting European economic recovery:
“Retail has been affected in different ways during the pandemic, but the whole ecosystem will see major change resulting from it. We will see a number of well-known retailers close their doors for ever, with fashion retail particularly hard hit, and others cutting the number of shops and staff they presently have. The pandemic also accelerated the trend towards online sales, and consumers, now used to e-commerce, will use this channel more in future. Private consumption makes up some 60% of EU GDP, and if retail is in trouble, so will the rest of the economy be. Equally, with help in speeding up its already active engagement with digital innovation and sustainability, the retail and wholesale ecosystem can be a powerful driver for getting Europe back on its feet again”.
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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.”
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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.”