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EU online shoppers shy away from buying outside home country

BRUSSELS – The European Union’s borderless single market is expanding only sluggishly into cyberspace, amid consumer concerns about security and whether it’s possible to return unwanted purchases, according to a new report published Monday.

The EU strives to create a seamless market across the bloc’s 28 countries. But while 53 per cent of European citizens now shop online, only 16 per cent buy goods or services from another country, the European Digital Progress Report said.

The report also showed smaller companies lagging behind their larger competitors. Only 7.5 per cent of smaller companies in the EU sell online to other countries, an increase of just 1 percentage point since 2013. Larger companies are doing better, with 38 per cent now selling online, seven percentage points higher than five years ago.

According to the report, the most common reason for avoiding e-commerce was that people still want to shop in person in stores, but just over a quarter of shoppers cited payment security concerns and 19 per cent fretted about getting their purchase or being able to return them.

The European Commission’s vice-president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, said the EU’s executive arm is developing proposals to tackle the issue.

“We will soon present a set of proposals which will boost e-commerce in the EU,” Ansip said. “That means no more barriers that discourage companies from cross-border trading and prevent people from getting the most competitive offers online.”