Consumer Trust Is The Key To Success Of Cross Border eCommerce In The EU

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sMind is leading e-commerce event in Slovenia organized by Ceneje, leading price comparison site in the region. This year, it will be held on November 24th at Ljubljana Castle. We’ve had a chat with one of the main keynote speakers, Maurits Bruggink.

Maurits Bruggink

Maurits Bruggink will be speaking at sMind, leading e-commerce event in Slovenia (November 24th 2015).

In April 2015, Maurits Bruggink was appointed Secretary General of EMOTA, the European Multi-channel and Online Trade Association. His main task is representing the interests of the sector to policymakers at European level and in Member States. Maurits has been involved in international advocacy, government affairs and trade association management for 25 years in different positions. At sMind, Maurits will be speaking about the importance of the consumer trust in cross-border eCommerce in the EU.

What is the state of consumer trust in e-commerce and online shopping, especially when it comes to cross-border shopping?

Many studies, including by the EU Commission, show that those consumers who have tried buying online and cross-border will do it again, this is encouraging. Generally the studies we have seen show that there is need for clear and transparent information to consumers.

Consumers should get the correct information about the delivery options, costs, times and the total cost of the order or whether the products are in stock. When this happens the consumers are less likely to abandon the order. Some EU Commission studies showed that close to 70% of consumers abandoned the order because of issues around the information on delivery (costs, times, etc.).

Do you have a statistics what proportion of European consumers buy online in other Member States? What are the greatest challenges for a Single Market for e-commerce?

The official figures issued by the EU Commission point to around 15% cross-border eCommerce, on average across the EU. However there are countries where the level of consumers buying cross-border is higher than 70%. Typically cross-border eCommerce will be regional (common language, fewer delivery costs, etc). Less than 30% of sellers sell cross-border.

Cross-border shopping is extremely difficult to measure from a consumer point of view. The consumer sees a Slovenian website, gets the parcel from the Slovenian post, pays in his/her currency and most likely can return the product to an address in Slovenia. However, the product might have been sold from the Netherlands or Italy. Depending how this is measured the differences can be more than significant. Regardless of thinking we have 60% of cross-border eCommerce or 15%, there are some real barriers all sellers and consumers have to face.

These start with legal fragmentation across the 28 EU markets in terms of consumer protection rules, data protection rules, etc. Then you have to look at product safety, guarantee rules, restrictions on distribution or other obligations.

There is a lot of work left to enact the EU Single Market for eCommerce and EMOTA is here to help policy makers to achieve this.

According to the most recent Consumer Scoreboard there is a huge lack of consumers’ and retailers’ awareness of key consumer rights. What can be done towards improving this situation?

Making the consumer aware of his/her rights and of their enforcement is a key effort to raise their confidence in online shopping. Legislation for online sales tends to evolve faster than in other areas of law. Equally important is to ensure that the consumer is not overwhelmed by the information as this defeats the purpose. As technology evolves so do the possibilities of displaying the consumer’s rights.

There are many information requirements that online sellers have to be aware of and not only in terms of content but also on how this information should be displayed (for example all restrictions on the order should be made clearly visible at the earliest stage of the shopping process, or the energy label for electronic products should be displayed next to the price). There are some recent changes in consumer protection rules and EMOTA and the EMOTA members are working hard to ensure all online sellers are aware off.

The vast majority of medium and large online sellers have already implemented the necessary changes in their terms and conditions and while this covers a very large percentage of the volumes of sales, it is not 100% of the market.

EMOTA launched European Trustmark on 1 July 2015. Trustmark is shown on those web shops that comply with the best trading practice. Which are the key principles that ensure high standard of trading and consumer protection on the basis of which you grant Trustmark?

The EMOTA Trustmark is awarded to those eCommerce sellers that implement a number of key principles which should ensure compliance with all the consumer protection rules and industry best practices. To quote only a few, sellers are required to be transparent about the consumer’s rights, offer clear information about the order, facilitate efficient customer complaint handling, implement safety measures for payments or the processing of personal data.

How many online stores already gained the Trustmark? Do you have any information how this affected their sales results?

EMOTA’s eCommerce Trustmark is now implemented by over 10 of the biggest EU markets, including Germany, the Nordics, Benelux etc. This should account for over 15.000 online shops and growing. EMOTA’s core focus is quality and consumer trust and we have to ensure the system is built to address any issues in this respect.

What else will you reveal at the sMind conference?

At the sMind conference I would like to explain further the EMOTA approach to trust in eCommerce and perhaps also launch a discussion on the key areas where the European Union is now focusing its attention concerning eCommerce. It would be good to ensure online sellers are aware of the different issues.