The European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumers Committee (IMCO) has adopted an own-initiative report by Kosma Złotowski MEP on tackling non-tariff barriers in the single market. EuroCommerce Director General Christel Delberghe said:
“Our ecosystem relies on the single market to provide our customers what they need at an affordable price. This own-initiative report contains some excellent proposals which we support, including an annual report on non-tariff barriers. We strongly encourage the plenary to fully endorse the report when voting in December. In particular, the report helpfully underlines that more needs to be done to enforce single market rules and roll back a trend which was apparent during the COVID pandemic of introducing new national barriers. We particularly welcome the report raising the problem of territorial supply constraints, the restrictions imposed by global brand manufacturers and which cost Europe’s consumers upwards of €14 billion a year, and ask the Commission to take immediate action to address these.”
Retail and wholesale operates in a highly competitive environment. European competitiveness both globally and at home can only be achieved by ensuring a single market that works for all actors and consumers. We have seen many governments, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, regularly introduce protectionist and discriminatory laws, which violate the freedom of establishment and the free movement of goods. The Commission has focused on better enforcement of single market rules, and we look forward to seeing the SMET enforcement task force acting decisively to deal with national barriers and the failure of member states to notify new measures under the Transparency and Services Directives. In services, the Commission’s mapping of barriers shows they are increasing in retail and wholesale. On this basis, we call upon the Commission carefully to examine whether national authorisation procedures are proportionate and non-discriminatory.
Speaking today on the presentation of the Commission Communication on a Competition Policy Fit for New Challenges, EuroCommerce Director-General Christel Delberghe said:
“EuroCommerce welcomes the Commission’s recognition that competition in the single market is central to Europe’s recovery and ensuring the global competitiveness of European businesses, driving choice and innovation and ensuring better prices. Our sector needs a competition framework which fully reflects the challenges and significant investment needed in meeting the demands of the digital and sustainability transition while operating at very low margins. It needs regulation that, along with recovery funds, can support its future resilience and attract investment.”
Retail and wholesale operates in a highly competitive environment. European competitiveness both globally and at home can only be achieved by ensuring proper competition and a single market that works for all actors and consumers.
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Speaking today in the context of the SME Assembly being held in Slovenia, Véronique Willems, Secretary-General of SMEunited and Christel Delberghe, Director General of EuroCommerce underlined the role of SMEs as the backbone of vibrant town centres and rural communities, made a joint call for action to address the challenges facing small businesses and the communities they serve:
“We have worked together for many years to highlight the importance of SMEs, making up 99,8% of enterprises in Europe, including in retail and wholesale. In cooperating today at a dedicated session on urban rejuvenation at the SME Assembly we aim to underline the difficulties faced by SMEs operating in town centres and look for action to help both businesses and local communities to maintain and build up lively town centres.
Town centres have seen increasing numbers of vacant shops and commercial premises, reflecting many factors and changes in the way people live. People in rural communities suffer if local services disappear. The COVID pandemic and the restrictions adopted to combat it have accelerated thisnegative trend, seeing shops, restaurants and other businesses close for good.
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On the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Commission’s Pact for Skills, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren announced today that retailers and wholesalers will accept the invitation to organise the Pact for Skills for the Retail Ecosystem (including wholesale):
“The Pact for Skills is a great opportunity for retailers and wholesalers across Europe to demonstrate their already considerable commitment to the up- and reskilling of the European workforce. We welcome the recognition by the European Commission of retail and wholesale as an important ecosystem driving Europe’s economic recovery, and our ecosystem’s strong record in equipping its workforce with a wide range of skills.”
As the first private sector employer, retail and wholesale directly provide 26 million Europeans with rewarding jobs. It continue to offer opportunities to many young people to grow their skills and develop their careers. Retail and wholesale run some of the most innovative and popular vocational education in Europe, such as digital apprenticeships supporting e-commerce operations. Equally important, continuous learning in the workplace ensures our current employees remain up to date with new technologies and rapidly changing consumer preferences by combining formal, informal and non-formal learning.
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 on the publication of the Commission report on implementation of the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) directive, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The Commission reports a good result on implementation of the UTP directive, with most member states having already transposed it and those remaining likely to do shortly. The directive left national authorities a lot of leeway in how they implemented the legislation, with a number of member states going far beyond the requirements in the directive, with a real risk of creating further fragmentation in the single market and regulating practices with very little impact on farmers. We ask the Commission to look at member states who have used this to include measures which are directly incompatible with single market rules and require a notification under TRIS. We further ask the Commission to measure, in line with the objective of the directive, whether these benefit farmers. Finally, we would ask the Commission urgently to reconsider their decision to exclude buyers from the further feedback exercise they are now conducting.”
The UTP directive, was part of a package to help farmers, including easing the scope for cooperation in producer organisations under the CMO regulation, and a measure on market transparency requirements. It is a minimum harmonisation instrument allowing member states to choose to extend its provisions. The majority of countries have done so, widening the directive’s scope and the practices covered, in some countries prohibiting up to over 40 different practices and some introducing national sourcing obligations that are a clear infringement to the single market. We note the report’s helpful comment that measures beyond the minimum laid down in the directive are compatible with it “provided they respect the EU’s internal market rules”.
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EuroCommerce welcomed Commission Competition Director-General Olivier Guersent today to its latest Policy Talk. EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren, said:
“This is a great opportunity to exchange views with the Commission on a number of crucial aspects of Europe’s important competition policy. The retail and wholesale environment is transforming fundamentally, to become more digital and greener. Both are demanding major investments in our industry to remain competitive. At the same time, it faces continued pressures from multinational manufacturers and regulators. These put further strains on a sector already operating on very low and decreasing margins. For retailers and wholesalers to continue providing its suppliers and customers with an essential service, and a wide choice at very competitive prices, competition rules must continue to prioritise consumers.”
In his speech and exchanges based on audience questions, Mr Guersent dealt with the role of competition rules in supporting industry policy goals, the Commission approach to the biggest review of competition rules for many years, and the opportunity this presents to update them to address the challenges of digitalisation, sustainability and maintaining consumer purchasing power. He was also able to update the audience on key aspects of the review in respect of vertical and horizontal competition rules, as well as the Digital Markets Act, merger control and market definitions.
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With the Commission today holding a workshop on joint purchasing and pursuing its review of horizontal competition rules, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We are asking that the Commission review recognises even more strongly the pro-competitive effects of alliances. Alliances, which exist in all sectors of the economy, combine the sourcing of their members facing stronger, more concentrated suppliers. Retail alliances help, on behalf of Europe’s consumers, partially to rebalance the power of multinational brand manufacturers, whose products make up a large proportion of most consumers’ shopping baskets and customers expect to see on retailers’ shelves. This gives these global manufacturers considerable leverage in negotiating the prices and conditions under which they sell to European retailers, who operate in only a limited number of markets. Alliances also help to mitigate large manufacturers’ fragmentation of the single market and other practices aimed at increasing their already significant margins”.
Retail alliances ensure consumer benefits in terms of prices, choice and innovation, in a concentrated supplier market of large global suppliers. Numerous studies demonstrate that alliances’ activities, which typically involve negotiation of sourcing conditions and services, or the actual purchase of products, lead to a 5-7% reduction in consumer prices. The Commission has over the years explicitly underlined this positive impact of alliances, with Commissioner Breton pointing to this in the context of vaccines, and Executive Vice-President Vestager pointing to their pro-competitive role on numerous occasions.
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The undersigned EU trade associations have been closely following and proactively engaging in the legislative process of the Proposal for a Regulation on a Single Market for Digital Services (Digital Services Act) and amending Directive 2000/31/EC.
As representatives of the wider retail sector, we believe the Digital Services Act (DSA) is of utmost importance for retailers in Europe to be able to increasingly operate cross-border, profit from a well-functioning Single Market and be supported by a harmonised and futureproof legislative framework. In particular due to the digital transformation of the industry, further accelerated by the outbreak of COVID-19, we believe that European policymakers should prioritise digitalisation and facilitate the continued uptake of digital solutions in the retail sector.
In that context, the undersigned would like to provide the perspective of the retail sector on the ongoing discussions on targeted advertisement. Following the publication of the DSA proposal with its new transparency obligations on online advertising, concerns have been raised about targeted advertising. As the negotiations are advancing in the European Parliament, the discussion on targeted advertisement has become a prominent element of the debate. Several Members of the European Parliament have advocated for the introduction of a ban or very strong restrictions on targeted advertising.
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As MEPs discuss the European Parliament’s report on the Farm-to-Fork strategy, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Retailers and wholesalers have a strong interest in working to meet consumer demand for sustainably produced food. As responsible actors playing a central role in the supply chain, we seek to cooperate with all our suppliers to deliver on our shared commitment to sustainability. We therefore support the Farm-to-Fork strategy’s overall objectives and will work to make our contribution to sustainable food systems which benefit consumers and the rest of the supply chain.”
EuroCommerce and many of its members signed up to the Farm-to-Fork Code of Conduct, confirming our commitment to work on responsible food business and marketing practices. Our members already have in place a wide range of initiatives promoting more sustainable options, including guaranteed orders for farmers during the transition to organic. By providing the possibility of selling larger volumes, our sector is helping to reward farmers adopting sustainable practices and allowing a wider range of consumers access to more sustainable food at affordable prices.
Our sector wants Farm-to-Fork to achieve its ambitious objectives, and in a way in which all players can benefit, from farmers to the final consumer. No one part of the supply chain can do so on its own, and we will be asking the Commission to collaborate with all parties to build cooperative and effective dialogue, but also to adopt practical approaches which are transparent about the impact of the policies and ensure that they work with the grain of the market and consumer interests.
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Juan Manuel Morales, President of EuroCommerce and Managing Director of IFA, a leading retail group in Spain, Portugal and Italy, today announced the appointment of Christel Delberghe as the new Director-General of EuroCommerce. Christel will take over from Christian Verschueren from 15 November. Mr Morales said:
“Christel’s appointment is the culmination of a thorough and competitive recruitment process in which Christel came out as the very strongest candidate. This was endorsed unanimously by the EuroCommerce Board. Both they and I have been impressed by Christel’s knowledge of and passion for the retail and wholesale sector, which she has served in various roles over the last 20 years in EuroCommerce. She has shown energy and commitment in pursuing a wide range of projects covering some of the most important issues confronting our sector. As the first woman to head EuroCommerce, Christel will be a very worthy successor to Christian, to whom I pay tribute now for his dedication to our sector, his leadership over the last 10 years, and the solid foundation he is leaving behind.”
Christel Delberghe added:
“I am proud and grateful for the confidence that EuroCommerce’s members have shown in appointing me as their Director-General. Retail and wholesale is very diverse and faces immense challenges over the coming years. Digital and sustainability are transforming our sector. I look forward to working with our members and EU decision-makers to achieve a regulatory and policy framework that supports the transformation and the significant investment needed to remain competitive and serve customers every day.”
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Joint Press Release with Ecommerce Europe
Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce today jointly launched an awareness campaign on the importance of a Single VAT ID Registration.
On 1 July 2021, new VAT rules for e-commerce sales to consumers entered into application, extending the VAT One Stop Shop system to e-commerce distance selling and introducing an Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS). Both Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce warmly welcomed the introduction of these simplification measures. However, one of the flaws of the new rules is that they do not address the issue of VAT registration for sellers holding stock in multiple Member States in order to be as close as possible to the consumers. In practice, e-merchants still have to maintain their foreign VAT registrations in every EU country where they are sending or holding stock. To address this issue, Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce recommend policymakers to extend the existing VAT OSS to all shipments of merchandise where the seller of record is not located in the EU country of taxation, and in particular to:
1. cross-border movement of own inventory across the EU,
2. domestic sales from distribution hubs by a seller that is not established in that EU country.
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Marking the first annual EU Organic Day, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said today:
“We have seen consumers increasingly choosing organic foods over the past 20 years and this trend continues, with a double digit annual growth in the sales of organic products. Retailers and wholesalers have been active in promoting organic, both in fresh produce and in their own brands. They have worked to forge close long-term supply relationships with farmers, including helping them to make the transition to organic. They have also helped make this economically attractive by providing a market for increased volumes.
We see this as an important element in building sustainable food systems. We are therefore pleased to see Commissioner Wojciechowski’s initiative in launching the EU Organic Day today as the UN general assembly discusses sustainable food. The EU Organic Day will, we hope, each year help the growth of successful organic production in Europe, and underline the other prerequisite for success in doing so: further building consumer demand for and appreciation of the benefits of, organically produced food.”
EuroCommerce and its members have shown their commitment to sustainable food, being both closely involved in the drafting of the EU Code of Conduct and one of its first signatories when it was launched in July. We have also shown how our sector has been proactive in adopting best practice in sustainability and promoting healthy lifestyles in our dedicated website #sustainablecommerce.
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Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce today jointly published the 2021 European E-commerce Report. In 2020, total European e-commerce grew to €757 billion euros, up 10% from €690 billion euros in 2019.
2020 was an exceptional year, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent important role of e-commerce for both society and economy. This is also reflected in the growth figures, which remained significant (10%), but dropped slightly compared to 2019 (14%). COVID-19 gave a significant boost to e-commerce sales, but the sharp decline of online sales in the tourism and services sector (events, tickets, etc.) contributed to holding back overall growth.
The pandemic had a massive impact on developments in the retail sector. The lockdown accelerated the existing trend towards the digital and green transition of stores. Their investments in digital and omnichannel, which were originally planned over several years, were carried out in just a few months. E-commerce was a lifeline for consumers, as government restrictions such as forced shop closures, prevented them from buying what they needed in stores. While e-commerce has not fully compensated the losses that many brick-and-mortar SMEs experienced, it has absorbed a large part of the economic shock. However, further work is needed to ensure the wider retail sector can optimally benefit from the solutions offered by the digital transformation.
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In the latest of the series of EuroCommerce Policy Talks, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski is speaking today on his vision for the future of European agriculture, and addressing a range of issues related to it. These include the impact of the COVID crisis on agriculture, sustainable food systems and the EU Farm-to-Fork strategy, food waste and food security, farmers’ income and regulation in the food supply chain, and the global and trade aspects of agriculture.
EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“As world leaders gather this week in New York to discuss sustainable food systems, we are very pleased to welcome Commissioner Wojciechowski to our Policy Talk on sustainable agriculture. As a vital link with consumers in the food supply chain, retailers and wholesalers have been very active in supporting the Farm-to-Fork objectives and addressing the accelerating transition to sustainability across the supply chain. They have been working with suppliers both of branded goods and our retailer brands to respond to and encourage consumer demand for sustainable food options and a healthy lifestyle, as well as reducing the environmental impact of their own business. Although retailers buy very little directly from farmers – less than 5% of what they sell – they have a shared interest in a globally competitive agriculture sector which prospers and successfully embraces this transition. This needs a regulatory regime which supports dialogue and cooperation rather than national protectionism or inappropriate legislation from which neither farmers nor consumers benefit”.