Brussels, 19 October 2016 - The EU has not delivered on its promise to abolish obstacles to the free movement of goods and services for consumers. The European Economic and Social Committee, Europe's voice for civil society, has delivered three key opinions on geo-blocking, roaming and parcel delivery – and concluded that Europe "can do better" in making the single market a reality for consumers.
Geo-blocking: Commission proposal unlikely to alleviate consumers' frustrations
Unjustified geo-blocking prevents consumers buying goods and services from traders located in another Member State. The EESC believes that the Commission's proposal to tackle this issue is only "a small step forward, not a game changer" that is uncertain to alleviate consumers' and companies' frustrations. The EESC recommends creating a level-playing field for online and offline trading by removing obstacles to selling and buying across borders. In this context, the EESC underlines that widely divergent industrial policies and national legislation, including copyright issues and parcel delivery tariffs, make it really difficult to speed-up this harmonisation process. SMEs and micro-enterprises in particular have a number of reasons to avoid cross-border on-line trade or adjust prices and conditions to differences between markets, such as legal environments, standards, language requirements on pre-contractual information and additional transport costs. More
Roaming: Consumers could face increase in domestic prices to compensate for drop in revenues
While the EESC supports the Commission's initiatives to "roam-like-home", it expresses serious reservations about the possibility for operators to negotiate wholesale pricing schemes outside the regulated price caps, as contained in the Commission's proposal. Since no mobile network covers all EU Member States, roaming providers have to purchase services from other operators active in the visited country. The problem is that "innovative wholesale pricing schemes" outside the regulated prices would not be directly linked to the volumes consumed. Commercial negotiations based on flat payments or up-front commitments are likely to lead to cartels and abuses of dominant positions by large operators to the detriment of the smaller ones. Moreover, since consumers may face a general increase of domestic prices to compensate the drop in revenues due to the end of roaming charges, the EESC advocates pre-emptive measures and increased transparency in domestic charges. Finally, in the event of a dispute between operators about the wholesale roaming markets, the EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal to oblige national regulatory authorities to seek the opinion of BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications. More
EESC calls for cap on cross-border parcel delivery prices
Cross-border delivery tariffs can be close to five times higher than the domestic equivalent when receiving parcels from small to medium e-commerce companies abroad. Such differences cannot be explained by labour or other costs in the destination country. The EESC has said that the Commission's proposal to make cross-border delivery services more affordable does not go far enough to bring down these disproportionate and unjustified costs. In 2014, only 15% of consumers bought online from other EU countries while 44% did so in their own country and their reluctance to buy cross-border is often linked to disproportionate parcel delivery prices. The Commission should threaten to put a cap on tariffs, said the EESC. It should adopt the same vigorous approach as it did with roaming by setting stringent deadlines for all parcel delivery services to lower their tariffs, make a final, urgent appeal and then announce, if not threaten, to put a cap on tariffs, if the industry does not bring them down to reasonable levels. More