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Europe falls short on cross-border ecommerce

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The European vision of a “vibrant digital single market” is falling short because not enough of us shop online across borders, and not enough small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) sell online, the European Commission has said.

A year into the European Commission’s Digital Agenda strategy, only 8.8% of the EU population uses the internet to shop in another European country, according to figures just published by the commission. The figure has risen from 8.1% a year ago, when the agenda was launched. But the Digital Agenda target is 20% of citizens shopping online across borders by 2015. The commission now plans to issue a Communication on the eCommerce Directive to tackle what it describes as “insufficient progress”.

Meanwhile, although 26% of SMEs are buying online, only 13% sell online, 2% up from last year.

The figures come in the form of a Scoreboard, illustrating progress on the Digital Agenda for Europe.

The Scoreboard also shows that the spread of high-speed broadband has been disappointing, concentrated in only a few, mostly urban, areas. Basic broadband, however, is increasingly available in remote areas.

There has been more success, however, in bringing more people online for purposes including domestic ecommerce. Here the UK leads the way, since 67% of the UK population now orders online for private use, 27 percentage points above the European average of 40%. The 40% of EU citizens who shop online, includes 57% of all internet users. In eight EU countries, more than half the population buys online.

The Digital Agenda target is to get 75% of the EU’s population online. The latest figures show that 65% currently use the internet at least once a week, while non-users have fallen from 30% to 26% of the population.

Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, said: “A year after the launch of the Digital Agenda I note progress. However, member States, industry, civil society and the Commission need to do more if we want to maximise the agenda’s potential for retaining Europe’s competitiveness, stimulating innovation, and creating jobs and prosperity. I call on everybody to consider the massive long term benefit of acting decisively now, especially in high speed broadband.”

The findings will be discussed at the first Digital Agenda Assembly, due to be held on June 16 and 17.

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