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Consumers still face restrictions while shopping online in Europe

Consumers still face restrictions while shopping online in Europe

Consumers in Europe are still not able to shop online in the European Union without being discriminated against because of their nationality. Online stores across the continent keep refusing customers from other countries, charging higher prices to foreign customers or creating virtual boundaries in some other way.

This is evident from a report [pdf] from European Consumer Centres, called “Do invisible borders still restrict consumer access to services in the EU?” Between 2013 and 2015, the organization received a total of 532 complaints from European consumers who couldn’t shop online freely. This is an increase of 140 percent compared to the amount of complaints between 2010 and 2012, but it should be noted that cross-border ecommerce wasn’t as common as it is now.

Different treatment mostly because of residence

Most complaints came from consumers in Austria (138), Italy (68) and Ireland (66). More than 82 percent of the complaints were about different treatment because of the place of residence. Situations in which consumers were confronted with different treatment or even refusal to provide a service occurred mostly in relation to the purchasing of goods, such as consumer electronics, vehicles, clothes, books, music or downloads.

‘Consumers still faced with restrictions’

“Unfortunately, the complaints ECC-Net has received show that the non-discrimination principle of Article 20.2 hasn’t been effective in combating in unjustified price and delivery differentiation. Consumers are still often faced with restrictions without any valid reason”, says Eva Calvelo Muiño, director of ECC the Netherlands.

Last month, the member states of the European Union agreed to forbid unjustified geo-blocking by online retailers, but it seems a fully functional Digital Single Market is still far away.


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