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You'll find in this section and below a library of resources (mostly) produced by EuroCommerce by type and in chronological order. If you are looking for resources related to a certain subject, issue or policy area, browse our policy areas section.

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DSA need for a level playing field to drive online innovation in Europe
18 Jan 2022 open-close-item
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Ahead of the vote of the European Parliament on the Digital Services Act (DSA) this week, retailers are calling for the new rules to support competitiveness online and foster innovation. Christel Delberghe, EuroCommerce Director General, said today:


“Retailers and wholesalers need the DSA to create a framework which protects consumers’ interests and a lays down a set of clear rules and a level playing field for all market players, irrespective of the sales channels on which they offer their goods and services, and where they are established. We are concerned that the Digital Services Act as now drafted already seeks - with no proper impact assessment - to regulate numerous other aspects outside its scope. We call upon MEPs to avoid a raft of amendments which exacerbate this situation. There is a risk that all these rules will only lead to higher compliance costs and red tape for businesses established in the EU but not for those outside. This could end up undermining Europe’s ability to compete with powerful players in the US and China.”


In summary, EuroCommerce believes the EU legal framework for a digital single market should:
•    ensure high consumer trust;
•    provide legal certainty for all market players irrespective of which sales channels they use to offer their services;
•    ensure balanced responsibilities for all market players depending on their position in the supply chain; and
•    create a level playing field for all businesses that offer products to EU consumers wherever they are established.
and calls upon the Parliament to avoid adopting amendments which work against these overall objectives.

Examples of proposals which risk making Europe uncompetitive and not relevant to the DSA’s overall objectives include disproportionate restrictions on online advertising, new data protection provisions which overlap or clash with existing rules, measures on sustainability irrelevant to this instrument and covered by existing or proposed legislation elsewhere, extending the use of trusted flaggers to commercial interests, and far-reaching new requirements on the use of recommender systems and algorithms.

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DMA trilogues should result in clear, consistent rules across Europe
11 Jan 2022 open-close-item
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Ahead of the start this week of trilogues between the European Parliament, Council and Commission on the Digital Markets Act (DMA), EuroCommerce Director General Christel Delberghe said:

“The COVID pandemic has massively accelerated online sales, and platforms can offer traders, including SMEs, real benefits, increasing their visibility and access to a wider customer base, providing efficiency and reduced transaction costs. We ask co-legislators to ensure that the rules finally adopted are workable, clear for all players and do not create unnecessary burdens or costs. In particular, we ask that the DMA reflects fully the differences between the various services provided by platforms and avoids fragmentation of the single market.”

In a challenging and rapidly changing environment, retailers and wholesalers need a DMA providing legal certainty and incentives to grow and invest in robust omnichannel strategies within a properly functioning single market, with clarity for both gatekeeper and emerging platforms. This means maximum harmonisation, particularly in the scope of the DMA, and the practices regulated by it, with the European Commission as the main enforcer of the new rules to avoid fragmented enforcement undermining the single market.

We support the proposal for the Commission to specify, in a regulatory dialogue with stakeholders, how far an obligation applies to a certain platform service, in order to allow rules to be tailored to different types of business models. In this context we support the European Parliament proposal to define concepts such as ‘end user’ and ‘business user’ differently according to the type of core platform, but the definition of active end-user for e-commerce marketplaces should be solely linked to a monetary transaction or purchase.

Finally, we hope that, given the importance of the DMA for multiple stakeholders, the trilogue will be conducted in a fully transparent manner, and that any major new changes will be considered carefully for their impact on the development of a vibrant and competitive European platform market.

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Draft EU Artificial Intelligence Act
16 Dec 2021 open-close-item
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EuroCommerce key recommendations to the AI Act:
(i) The broad definition of AI – We need a clarified definition of AI. This will create legal certainty and avoid creating unnecessary burdens for companies.
(ii) The list of “high-risk applications”: High-risk AI applications should be limited to specific use cases with actual high risk. Specifying categories and providing concrete examples will guide companies in deciding whether a specific practice is considered high risk and offer a future proof framework.
(iii) Prohibited AI uses: It must be ensured that Article 5(1a) does not prohibit AI-based algorithms for automatic product recommendations and advertisement and that only passive, mass identification from a distance is prohibited and not the active authentication of individuals.
(iv) Legal consistency: Alignment with existing legislation should be ensured and the duplication should be avoided.
(v) Responsibilities of different actors in the AI value chain: The responsibilities in the AI Act allocated to different economic operators should be clear and transparent to ensure legal certainty. Any kind of confusion will create an additional burden for developers, business users and end-users.
(vi) Changes to the legislation: Changes to the classification of systems as high-risk AI should not be implemented by delegated act, but rather in the co-decision procedure.
(vii) Feasible obligations: Obligations imposed on providers, producers, importers, distributors and users of AI systems should be proportionate, easy in the implementation and practical.
(viii) Access to source code: There is a need to strike the right balance between transparency and safeguarding trade secrets (such as the source code). There is a risk of distortion of competition if the core content of algorithms has to be disclosed.
(ix) Enforcement: The proposed fines are not proportionate and need to be at the level of the General Data Protection Regulation and to be reduced to a maximum of 4 percent of the annual turnover.
(x) Regulatory sandboxes: The creation of voluntary regulatory sandboxes to promote the development, testing and validation of innovative AI systems is very welcomed. The framework must be flexible and future proof and leave room to test whether the legal framework still fits in with new developments and adapt when necessary.
(xi) Guidelines for developers: The Commission should present a practical and comprehensible guideline for developers after the conclusion of the legislative process.

 

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Building in energy efficiency – proportionate rules and support for retail and wholesale vital
15 Dec 2021 open-close-item
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Commenting today on the European Commission proposal to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, EuroCommerce Director General Christel Delberghe explained how retailers and wholesalers are already contributing to the improvement of the built environment, and highlighted the need for support for our sector to help meet the directive’s objectives: 

“We fully support the objectives of the directive. For many years retailers and wholesalers have been upgrading our shops and warehouses regularly to use energy more efficiently and to switch to renewables wherever possible. But, as a sector operating at very low margins, and with 99% of our companies SMEs, we are calling on the Commission and member states to ensure that the obligations on companies are proportionate and that they have adequate support in financing the investments needed to fulfil its objectives”.

Retailers and wholesalers have been active in the roll-out of energy-efficient stores, fundamentally changing their logistics and their own operations to minimise energy consumption, and offering customers charging stations for electric cars, scooters and e-bikes. Wholesalers serving the construction sector and craftsmen are playing their part in providing advice and energy-efficient materials to help make a difference to the environmental impact of the built environment. While much of this also makes commercial sense, the investments involved, and potential regulatory burdens, are significant.  For the directive’s and the renovation wave objectives to be achieved, this needs to be addressed. 

This is a particularly difficult step for SMEs and many retailers and wholesalers still trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Easier access to financing, and support from national recovery plans under the Next Generation EU programme, to cover upfront costs, availability of skilled local staff and better information would help our sector in taking the steps necessary to implement further improvements. We call on the Commission and Member States to ensure that retailers and wholesalers are also able to benefit from such support.

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Retail and wholesale need mobility solutions to support local communities
14 Dec 2021 open-close-item
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With the Commission’s publication of its proposed Urban Mobility Framework today, EuroCommerce Director General Christel Delberghe underlined the importance of retailers and wholesalers as the vital backbone of local communities and in keeping town centres alive.

“Town centres are sensitive ecosystems in which retail and wholesale, hospitality and other services rely on and interact with each other. A town with a wide range of shops is an attractive place to visit and live and one in which other businesses can prosper.  If not, the life of the town risks ebbing away. We are asking the Commission to ensure that the mandatory Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans in their proposal involve consultation of all parts of the community including local businesses. This will be vital in creating a balanced approach to sustainable access for customers and deliveries which can allow retailers and wholesalers to continue to serve and maintain the vitality of the community.”

We fully support measures to make access to towns sustainable, but this needs to ensure a mix of transport solutions for people coming to town to shop, and for the businesses serving them. Convenient and affordable public transport and other soft access solutions will be an important part of creating sustainable urban mobility.  But some purchases will need provision of some parking and access for private cars.  Last-mile deliveries to town-centre businesses, or from those businesses to consumers, will need optimised access for lorries and vans if the businesses are to continue to be able to operate from the town.

Retailers and wholesalers have long been recognised as the backbone of both urban and rural communities.  A survey undertaken in Germany[1] showed that over half of respondents’ main reason for going into a town was for shopping. Another study in Spain[2] showed that 90% of Spanish consumers buy their groceries on foot.  Local retail and wholesale provide an essential service to the community, along with an important source of local employment. They interact with entertainment, restaurants and cafes to make a visit to the town centre an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.  A town with empty premises quickly becomes less attractive and with it the local community suffers, as we have seen in many places across Europe.  SMEs operating in or delivering to town centres are especially vulnerable; many have been hit hard by Covid 19 restrictions and need support to invest in the digital and sustainability transformation. It is therefore essential that retailers and wholesalers are part of the design of sustainable mobility plans.

 

 

 

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Europe Needs Ambitious Digital Policy For The Retail Sector
09 Dec 2021 open-close-item
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Today, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted its resolution ‘Digital transformation opportunities for retail companies and its advantages for European consumers’. The report addresses the major impact on businesses of the digital transformation of the sector, the impact of COVID and the opportunities and challenges of the digital and green transition.

EuroCommerce Director-General Christel Delberghe commented:

‘The EESC report recognises the strategic role that the retail ecosystem plays in driving European recovery, underlines the significant transformation under way and the need to support investment and resilience. Last year, we launched our Pact for Commerce (here), supported by our social partners (here), setting out investment and policy needs for the retail and wholesale sector, focussing on digitalisation, sustainability, local employment and the need for open markets. I would like to thank the EESC for its very helpful and supportive report highlighting the importance, but also the needs, of our ecosystem in order to remain competitive and continuing to provide in the future the essential service it gives its customers every day.’

EuroCommerce also wholeheartedly endorses the call in the EESC report for redesigning employment and skills support measures, and investment in the skill sets of future retail workers.  While our sector has a proud record of training and upskilling, equipping the workforce for a rapidly changing business environment needs support.

Equally important for the nearly 5 million SME retailers and wholesalers in Europe will be help, including tailored expert advice, on how to build an online presence and succeed in a market transformed by the digital and sustainability transition.

The EESC report also highlights the important role of retail in rural areas, towns and villages. These are ecosystems in which retail, other services and cafes and restaurants feed each other and make their community an attractive place to visit, work and live. Changing consumer behaviour and the effects of the COVID pandemic have seen many stores close and with it the loss of the backbone of local communities. Concerted public-private initiatives, involving all parts of the community and its businesses, are urgently needed to reverse this trend, with support at regional, national and EU level.

 

 

 

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Proposal for a General Product Safety Regulation: a core issue to keep consumers safe
02 Dec 2021 open-close-item
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Key messages


1. An effective legal framework for product safety is needed. We welcome the Commission’s continued work to improve product safety and aligning the approach for harmonised and non-harmonised product regulation.


2. Risk-based approach at the core: We support the risk-based approach in this proposal, focussing on harmonised risk-assessment and removing dangerous products from the market. Imposing disproportionate obligations to law abiding companies, and unnecessary burden for SME’s, including on information and reporting requirements, should be avoided.


3. Coherent legal framework for connected products: Some aspects related to modern technologies are better regulated under lex specialis. Furthermore, the decisive moment for ensuring product safety is the placing on the market. Full coherence with other proposals currently being debated, such as the digital services act and the cyber security act is especially important.


4. Roles and responsibilities of each type of operator in the supply chain should be in line with their sphere of influence and activities. Proportionality of new measures for retail and wholesale at the end of the chain needs to be ensured. To take full account of the new omnichannel trading environment, which received a major boost during the COVID pandemic, establishing an online presence for European retailers and wholesalers should be facilitated.


5. Information requirements for products sold via distance selling should be aligned with the type of information legally required to be provided by the retailer to their customers.

 

 

 

 

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Joint food distribution industry statement - Food distribution sector calls on EU to exempt medium sized businesses from costly NIS 2 cybersecurity obligations
30 Nov 2021 open-close-item
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Joint statement from Independent Retail Europe, SMEunited, HOTREC, Serving Europe & EuroCommerce

The Commission proposal for a NIS 2 Directive would expand the scope of cybersecurity obligations to all medium sized enterprises in the food distribution sector. Such a wide scope would entail massive compliance costs for these companies, even though they are not ‘critical’ (in the sense of the Directive) for local food supply. The signatories of this statement call on EU institutions to exempt from the NIS 2 Directive all medium sized food distribution companies, or ensure that only such companies supplying a critical share of the population be covered.

The European Commission proposal for a NIS 2 Directive widens the scope of the existing Directive to cover all large and medium sized enterprises in selected critical/essential sectors. The new scope would include food distribution, with the objective of avoiding food shortages in case of a cyberattack.

The signatories of this statement, representing SMEs in the food distribution sector at large (e.g. retailers, local food shops, restaurant services, wholesalers, etc.), warn that the extension of the scope to all medium sized food distribution businesses is not proportionate to the risks and leads to very high un-necessary compliance costs[1]. The impact would be particularly high, as food distribution SMEs are characterised by very low-profit margins, and a significant number (e.g. hospitality, wholesale, etc.) are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

To ensure the resilience of critical supply chains in case of a cyberattack, NIS 2 should only cover food distribution companies of systemic relevance, meaning entities for which a cyberattack would create a critical threat to the food supply of populations. Individually, medium sized food distribution (retailers, restaurants, etc.) companies are not critical in this sense: they only represent a small share of the food distribution market, while there are always may local convenient alternatives available to consumers, even if a cybersecurity incident hit a specific SME. Also, although some medium-sized food businesses (e.g. bakeries, butchers, etc.) are essential in the context of regional food production, they are not critical with regards to the network of the entire food supply chain. In the case of a cybersecurity attack, the food production process would not be affected.

Therefore, we call on EU institutions to amend the scope of application of the NIS 2 proposal for the food distribution sector and ensure that:

  • either medium sized food distribution companies are exempt from NIS 2; or
  • it exclusively covers businesses supplying more than 0,5% of the population of a given Member State- reflecting their importance to the food supply of Member States


[1] As reported in the European Commission's impact assessment (p 70-80).

 

 

 

 

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Non-tariff barriers fragment single market and harm consumers
24 Nov 2021 open-close-item
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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.

A Commission report last year underlined the effect of persistent territorial supply constraints (TSCs) imposed by the largest brand manufacturers of grocery products which prevent retailers and wholesalers from sourcing on a European basis or choosing where to buy. These can take various forms such as refusing to supply except through their national distributor or threatening to stop supplying a particular distributor, limiting the quantities available for sale, inexplicable differences in product ranges and prices between Member States, or limiting language options for product packaging, as seen in the AB InBev case. According to the study, these restrictions would cost European consumers at least €14bn a year.

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Competition central to future prosperity of Europe and consumers’ welfare
18 Nov 2021 open-close-item
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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.

Supporting investment is a key priority. In 2020, the Commission estimated investment needs in retail and wholesale to be €115 billion. Our sector will need to double its investment if it is to remain able to provide other ecosystems and customers the essential service it does now and meet the challenges of the digital and sustainability transition. It also needs the necessary infrastructure and a framework which allows it to succeed and thus attract the necessary private investment.

Companies in our ecosystem are showing leadership in sustainability, with major investments to make their operations and what they sell even more sustainable – reflected in the many examples in our website sustainable-commerce.com. They have also made a range of commitments under numerous public and private sector initiatives, but none of this can be achieved by companies - or the sector - alone, and their efforts need to be combined with others’ to be effective. Competition rules which provide clarity on what forms of cooperation and data exchange are possible will help companies join forces with the necessary legal certainty in pursuing genuine sustainability efforts (rather than cosmetic greenwashing).

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