Have you thought of how often we speak about the digital world as something new, revolutionary and futuristic? Of course, it is quite new and it has revolutionised our ways of living, but it is not in some distant future - it is happening now! Our challenge as policy-makers is to grasp this digital potential and create the right opportunities for fast-moving innovation.
In a time, where Europe's competitiveness is lagging behind and youth unemployment is thriving, e-commerce is really a goldmine for growth and jobs. I see e-commerce as an important complement to offline business and a real tool for consumers. Not only does it increase access to products and services for all, including people with reduced mobility and in remote areas, but it is also a way for small and medium enterprises to grow and expand their business cross-border. Besides, it is a rich source of information and networking between people.
Then, how come that only 9 percent of EU consumers and 18 percent of EU retailers use cross-border e-commerce? Because we are faced with a deep-rooted lack of trust in operating online cross-border.
Why? Because fragmentation and uncertainty of rules discourage both businesses and consumers from engaging in online transactions.
For instance, when you have found the book you want in an internet store elsewhere in the EU, how many times have you not discovered at the final stage of your order that cross-border payment is not accepted between your two countries? How many times have you not had to pay disproportionate costs, just because your delivery crosses a national border, although the same distance within one country is much cheaper? How many times has not a small company been forced to establish itself physically in another Member State, just to obtain an online domain name?
Unfortunately, such obstacles still exist and deprive European citizens of the full benefits of our single market. This is why I am committed, as a member of the Internal Market and consumer protection Committee in the European Parliament, to removing red tape and extra costs.
At EU-level, we are addressing digital challenges with targeted measures and simple, common and flexible rules. Already last year, we voted for harmonised consumers' rights in the EU for online commerce, with a general withdrawal right of 14 days in all Member States. This creates legal certainty.
We are also working to achieve faster and more secure online payments across the EU, with transparent transaction fees. This goes hand in hand with our ongoing work to harmonise e-signature, e-identification and e-invoicing, which will equally contribute to increasing trust.
Our attention is also focused on more efficient delivery services. Not only do length of delivery times, delays and fear of damaged or lost items discourage consumers from ordering online, but in addition, the delivery market is very concentrated and does not offer competitive prices. My line is to open up for more competition.
With my background as an online entrepreneur, I have first-hand experience of how cumbersome and costly it is for an SME - in terms of time and money - to abide by all the VAT rules. Although I am not in favour of fiscal harmonisation at EU-level, I support a simplification of VAT rules for cross-border activity in order to ensure a level-playing field between big and small players.
I am also committed to lifting unjustified restrictions to online commerce. While freedom of contract is fundamental and manufacturers are free to organise and negotiate the terms of their distribution, there is evidence that unfair contractual clauses can distort competition and put a break on online sales. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support the ongoing self-regulation, where stakeholders in the supply chain have a constructive dialogue and agree on principles of good practice as well as implementing measures.
The digital world has opened up enormous opportunities for our economy. At the same time, it has brought new security challenges. At EU-level, we are currently working on new rules for data protection, where I am striving to find the right balance between strong individual privacy rights and the respect of the single market. Any rules that we shape must be future-proof and net-neutral.
In this context, I am particularly committed to the safety of our children on the Internet. Children should not be subject to profiling. I encourage the industry to take its shared responsibility and refrain from direct, aggressive and misleading online advertising against children.
Whatever we decide to advance the internal market, we have to keep in mind how this affects the online market. This is my idea behind "the e-commerce test", which was broadly supported in the European Parliament. E-commerce provides a true opportunity to build borderless bridges. Let us create together the right conditions for the development of e-skills and give the same dignity to free movement of goods and services online, as we have physically. Digital Europe is the way forward!
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt
(M) Europaparlamentariker, European Parliament
Jag är en småföretagare som startat och drivit eget företag för internetförsäljning av italienska delikatesser.
Sedan jag 2009 valdes in som ledamot för Moderaterna i Europaparlamentet är jag djupt engagerad för att skapa ett bra företagarklimat i Europa med förenklade regler som underlättar både för entreprenörer och för konsumenter.
Den digitala inre marknaden är en särskilt viktig nyckel för att skapa mer konkurrenskraft, tillväxt och jobb i Europa.
Därför driver jag i inre marknadsutskottet på för att vi ska riva ner administrativa hinder, öppna upp den inre marknaden, öka förtroendet för att handla på nätet över gränser och garantera samma fria rörlighet för varor både fysiskt och digitalt.
I am an entrepreneur, who started and ran my own small company for online commerce of Italian traditional food products.
Since I was elected Member of the European Parliament in 2009 for the Moderate Party in Sweden, I have been deeply committed to promoting a favourable and dynamic business environment in Europe through simple, flexible and common rules that facilitate for business and consumers alike.
Today the digital single market is key to creating more competitiveness, growth and jobs in Europe.
That is why, as a member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, I am fighting to remove barriers, borders and burdens, to open up the internal market, to increase trust in cross-border e-commerce and to guarantee the same freedom of movement for goods and services both offline and online.