back to article Are EU having a laugh? Europe passes hopeless cyber-commerce rules

The European Commission (EC) has approved a series of ecommerce rules designed to make Europe more competitive online. In true European fashion however, the proposals contain a lengthy series of inconsistent compromises and avoid altogether the most complex policy issues, making them largely worthless. Vice-President for the …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    A complete failure then, but they had to announce something for all that money...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps I'm not reading the article correctly or am over tired but.... Isn't this just a proposal from the commission? In which case it'll need our government to agree it via the council of ministers and the the EU parliament to agree it too.

      So, perhaps a crappy proposal but I suppose we can hope that at least it's raising the issue to our beloved leaders.

  2. localzuk

    I smell lobbyists

    This has the stench of lobbyists all over it. What could've been a good set of rules to open up trade has been watered down by companies and countries that are still thinking in an isolationist/protectionist manner.

  3. Mage Silver badge

    They aren't entirely mad.

    They know the problem is madly varying shipping rates. The longer term plan is to harmonise them, a sort of roaming charges directive for packets and parcels.

    Just right now people know the problem and not the solution, hence the aspirational release.

    It's far cheaper to ship from Germany to UK or Ireland than from France or Belgium (sellers near the border use German services). Germany to Ireland cheaper than Ireland <-> UK.

    Ireland & UK similar costs for Export , but the lower in Ireland postage can be higher than courier from USA!

    Denmark, Netherlands, France Belgium seem expensive

    Italy, Spain seem intermediate.

    The UK parcel force is about x2 more expensive at a Post Office than a reseller.

    Shopping around gives a 4:1 variation in price.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: They aren't entirely mad.

      But to comply with the law you have to go through the shopping cart process and then get told that your delivery options are collect only.

      And the company might not be set up for collect, which is a problem if it's near the border.

      That's fairly mad.

      1. David Roberts

        Re: They aren't entirely mad.

        Interesting point. If the on line business has no "front desk" where you can collect the goods that you ordered then the rule is absolutely pointless.

        Presumably one way is for you to have a contract with a carrier where you have a "click and collect" point in each country which then forwards the goods to you. Business opportunity for someone but more expensive than shipping directly.

        You have to take the order but you don't have to ship it - wierd.

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: They aren't entirely mad.

      Text of press release says "The Commission is proposing legislation to ensure that consumers seeking to buy products and services in another EU country, be it online or in person, are not discriminated against in terms of access to prices, sales or payment conditions, unless this is objectively justified for reasons such as VAT or certain public interest legal provisions."

      This bit, and accompanying text, seems to indicate that as an eg Belgian buyer you shouldn't be prevented from accessing the seller's Dutch website and seeing if the price offered in the Netherlands is cheaper and that you shouldn't be prevented from buying from a French website with a UK credit card if you so desire.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: They aren't entirely mad.

        Okay, look at the Routers article...

        While e-commerce websites will not be allowed to prevent customers in one EU country buying products in another, they will not be forced to deliver cross-border.

        Therefore, an Italian buying a TV from a German website would either have to arrange their own delivery or collect it at the trader's premises.

        The Commission hopes the new rules will increase the proportion of consumers who buy online from another country, currently only 15 percent.

        Forcing traders who aren't set up to to sell abroad, to sell abroad, without any way of getting the goods to the customers makes no sense.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: They aren't entirely mad.

          I'm surprised that it is as low as that, given that a well known Luxembourg retailer, Amazon, is the market leader, and they have shipped stuff to me in the UK from warehouses in Spain, France, Germany and Slovakia.

        2. organiser

          Re: They aren't entirely mad.

          Within the EU is not quite "abroad". If they can ship locally they can just as easily ship to other EU member states.

    3. Dr Fidget

      Re: They aren't entirely mad.

      Don't know about other countries but I've got a couple of 14 ltr cans of 'family' olive oil (i.e. from the sister-in-law's olives) sat waiting for me in Crete. When I went into one of the couriers to get some idea of the cost of shipping they just said it just wasn't worth the cost of shipping it to the UK.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: They aren't entirely mad.

        "they just said it just wasn't worth the cost of shipping it to the UK."

        So how come all the cheap crap in the shops managed to get here all the way from China and still be cheaper than all the other tat?

        1. Yes Me Silver badge

          Re: They aren't entirely mad.

          "how come all the cheap crap in the shops managed to get here all the way from China "

          Because bulk shipping a container full of plastic craplets is very cheap, and wrapping up a couple of containers and shipping them as a parcel is expensive. No mystery here. What is stupid is the failure to create a common market in on-line bits. That needs fixing.

        2. JohnG

          Re: They aren't entirely mad.

          "So how come all the cheap crap in the shops managed to get here all the way from China and still be cheaper than all the other tat?"

          China Post.

        3. organiser

          Re: They aren't entirely mad.

          Steep volume and region discounts. The large couriers are trying to break into the Asian markets and are offering extremely low rates there.

        4. blackhat

          Re: They aren't entirely mad.

          ...because all that tat comes in bulk....

    4. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: They aren't entirely mad.

      They know the problem is madly varying shipping rates

      Actually one problem is madly varying fraud rates. I know of retailers who have refused to ship to certain EU destinations because of a high incidence of payment card fraud.

      The EU can't simply outlaw geography - it is inevitably going to be more expensive to ship and support goods sent long distances from the supplier (try getting a storage radiator shipped to the Highlands) and harder to assess the risk of fraud.

      Requiring suppliers to ship anywhere in the EU on demand would likely push prices up in otherwise competitive markets more than it brought them down elsewhere.

  4. ratfox

    Worst, however, is the fact that the Commission has exempted digital goods from its digital single market, so companies will be able to continue to geo-block videos and other digital files.

    Well duh. You thought that was going to change?

    1. graeme leggett

      They do propose to stop films and news being interrupted more often than every 20 mins

      This phrase "The aim of the country of origin principle is to protect media service providers established in one Member State from any restriction imposed by other EU Member States receiving their services" is interesting. Seems to read to me that eg should a Polish TV broadcaster want (the magic word because it remains control at the point of origin rather than the person who wants to receive) to make it's programmes available to eg Poles resident in France, then the French cannot prevent it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    creating a website that will attempt to list all those rates

    while I don't sign up with the anti-EU "camp", all they need to do is amplify such cases to make it appear like it's an EU "normal insane" (is it?). It's be best for the EU to refrain from passing on any new legislation, or even proposals, until the day of the referendum in the UK ;)

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: creating a website that will attempt to list all those rates

      Something that's been annoying me about the pro-EU bludgers recently - they keep banging on about how great Europe is, and how we will all explode if we leave etc, - yet when do you see any (TV) programming from Europe on our televisions?

      There's a reason why a lot of kids have taken up US gang culture - because we get so much US based television. Huge amounts of cultural influence these days is US based - not Europe.

      So tell me again why they are so hot on Europe? It's quite clear they don't actually give a shit about European culture. They keep feeding us US brain-dead TV to numb the masses, whilst signing all our powers away to the corridor creepers in Brussels so that they can get a juicy retirement gig when the electorate boots them out for one expense scandal too many.

      The whole system is so corrupt I'm sure there are MP's out there thinking it's too big to tackle, too insidious to pin down, and has too much money to fight - but grow a spine goddammit and take a stand! We're in the last chance saloon here, we need to be heard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: creating a website that will attempt to list all those rates

        So you are pro-Brexit because we don't get enough European TV?

        European culture is everywhere in the country. How do I know? Because UK culture is part of European culture.

        Why are people obsessed with this outdated notion of "them and us". Go to Europe. Sit down with some people who share the same occupation or interests are you. Find out how different our cultures really are. (Not very).

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: creating a website that will attempt to list all those rates

        If you think there's too much US TV on UK TV, then I invite you to take a look at other European countries which have less home produced content than the UK. It's an absolute avalanche of crap and the language barrier doesn't stop it.

        Also, I take it you're not a fan of French or Scandinavian crime drama on BBC4?

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: creating a website that will attempt to list all those rates

          "So you are pro-Brexit because we don't get enough European TV?"

          Hardly, I was just pointing out that I, personally, don't feel part of Europe as much a part of the US. If I stick to UK News Channels, there is usually quite a few US based news articles that could be considered fairly local to the US and not really international news - likewise there's very little about what's going on in European countries (if they are mentioned not in much depth) - so I do watch a lot of European news channels (as well as the odd US one too just for reference).

          "Also, I take it you're not a fan of French or Scandinavian crime drama on BBC4?"

          Not a big fan of crime drama, but I take your point; although I didn't say it didn't exist, just that the ratio is heavily weighted to US based media.

          My point is, I don't feel very European when I'm in the UK. If I go to Europe I usually end up coming home thinking that I live in a 3rd world country for a start. The *people* of Europe are great, and having close ties with our neighbours is always a good thing - but no not wanting to hand over our democratic rights to self-serving bureaucracies with nameless/faceless leaders does not make me anti-Europe - it makes me anti-control-freaks (whoever they might be).

          We keep getting told we are better off in the EU and changing it for the better from within - which is a ludicrous concept to me. We are better served by striking out on our own again and re-writing the rule book as we go. Cutting the red-tape by about 50% would be a massive boost to our ailing industries.

      3. DrD'eath

        Re: creating a website that will attempt to list all those rates

        Quite right, don't want any of that US gang culture, stick to good old British gang culture, football hooligans and skinheads.

        I am British and a naturalized American citizen, and yes there is a lot a bad US TV, but also a lot a good quality stuff, same as the UK. But I think the main reason we get more TV in the UK from the USA compared to what we get from Europe is that it is in English. If we actually taught children foreign languages at an age when then can more easily learn them then there would be more of a market for European TV.

    2. JohnG

      Re: creating a website that will attempt to list all those rates

      "It's be best for the EU to refrain from passing on any new legislation, or even proposals, until the day of the referendum in the UK ;)"

      They have delayed the announcement of proposals for a European Army until the day after the Brexit referendum. Apparently, those involved in discussions of this topic have not been allowed to take any electronic devices or storage media in the meetings. Nothing like a bit of open democracy, eh?

  6. Nick Kew

    Are you making problems?

    If your spanish vendor won't ship to Poland, then they won't have Polish customers. That problem is theirs, and the remedy entirely in their hands. No business of the legislators: that's a complete red herring introduced in your article. No different to a Bristol vendor who declines to ship to Brighton.

    If there's a point I'm missing, why not make it instead of introducing such feeble non-arguments?

  7. Known Hero

    Until the day that I can order a phone contract from Greece and use it England or buy electricity from Poland and use it here, WITHOUT any taxes, limitations, or restrictions then I shall consider the EU as a working entity. Its current model of "free" trade only benefits big business, government and the CEO's - Not the People.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What part of COMMON MARKET was so hard to understand ?

    Thanks to the brilliantly crafted WEEE regulations, you cannot legally sell electronic devices in other EU countries without being registered there. Which can be amazingly expensive and bureaucratic.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Europe you have:

    -Wildly varying postal charges

    -Carrier restrictions that vary from carrier to carrier (further complicated by private vs. state carriers)

    -Import restrictions (Example: You're not allowed to ship leather goods to Italy last time I checked although frankly shipping anything to Italy is a huge risk***)

    -EU rules, just in case there was anybody left not completely confused.

    So what happens if I get an order for leather goods from Italy? You can't send it without risking legal problems and chances are the parcel wouldn't arrive anyway. Given the sheer bewildering variety of all the things these arsepipes are trying to get us to comply with, being able to refuse service is essential. Taking the money and refusing to deliver is no solution at would be far better to say "sorry, can't do that" and 1) Not take a person's money when you are unable to deliver and 2) Avoid all the buggering about refunding with all the complications and extra charges that will no doubt entail.

    ***Not prejudice...the Italian postal service just don't seem to have got the hang of delivering things to the address on the package. You would have thought someone would have researched the concept before ordering all the vans and uniforms and whatnot, but apparently not.

    1. Graham Marsden

      "You're not allowed to ship leather goods to Italy last time I checked"

      Really? I've shipped my "leather goods" (well, that's what I put on the Customs label ;-) ) to Italy more than a few times without problems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "You're not allowed to ship leather goods to Italy last time I checked"

        I can't find the original reference where I read it...just noted it as "something that may be useful to know at some future point"

        Looking it up now "animal skins" are a prohibited item; but it doesn't specify at which point animal skins are considered to be finished goods or if there is a difference.

        Also, holy crap:

        "All electronic equipment (radio, TV, VCR, etc.) require an Import Permit from the Italian Ministry of Posts and Communications

        Without an Import Permit, above items cannot clear Customs"

        1. organiser

          Re: "You're not allowed to ship leather goods to Italy last time I checked"

          It is only import if it comes from a country outside the EU.

  10. Slx

    The one that drives me mad is that certain massive retailers routinely just point blank refuses to ship electronics to Ireland due to some misinterpretation of the Irish implementation of the WEEE directive.

    I also had a German website tell me that they couldn't ship to Ireland as we have different plugs and it would be illegal to sell a product here. Since when? I checked the law there's absolutely nothing to prevent me buying a product with a CEE 7 (Schuko/Europlug). The only requirement is that local retailers fit BS1363 plugs to anything being sold for 'normal home/office' use as they're supposed to be 'ready to plug in'.

    Schuko is actually perfectly legal and recognised by Irish legislation as an alternative fitting and was used in the past (You'll still find it some very old wiring).

  11. Christoph

    "the Commission has exempted digital goods from its digital single market"

    Have they done anything at all to fix the VAT regulations that make it impossible for small businesses to sell digital goods to other EU countries?

  12. DropBear

    In all fairness, it IS utterly infuriating to be told by a major online retailer form a certain islander EU member that "sorry we are no longer shipping to your (also EU member) country". I'm so glad to hear collective guilt is alive and well, half a century after the Germans invented it - dealing with whatever problems they might have had on a customer-by-customer basis is clearly too much trouble and anyway nobody should be forced to serve blacks innit...

  13. Saul Dobney

    Could we have some commissioners with commercial experience please...

    This looks confused. Some of the principles sound OK - a car rental company should not be charging different prices for consumers from different countries. But the details are all over the place and there's a huge potential for confusion with existing local laws and regulations - for instance some countries don't allow food to be shipped across borders, some require qualifications to offer certain types of products or services; certain types of promotions or marketing is limited.

    It also seems to flip-flop. In one part a trader cannot be forced to contract, in another it says the website has to be available and a third says if he is 'pursuing activities' (which is a website?) he's not allowed to differentiate or refuse to sell by virtue of nationality or place of residence - which reads like if you have a website, you'll be forced to contract. And that opens up a minefield of legal risks including fines for breaking rules you've never heard of written in languages you do not speak.

    In theory, you can offer to supply just in your country (the customer collects), but some people will be selling by drop-shipping, so have no physical premises from which they sell goods. And some will have exclusive distribution agreements or licenses for specific territories or areas. This might include service contracts such as on-site service that only apply to a given territory, dealer training etc. It's not at all clear how these would be dealt with.

    And even with all this in place, you'll still get a Spaniard living in London trying to buy a present on her Spanish credit card for a nephew in German to be shipped by an Austrian supplier that will be refused because the risk of fraud is much too high, and there is no clear legal recourse for the trader. So it may very well act as another reason not to trade online - just like the EU VAT laws.

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    Not relevant but...

    ...there have been more than a few sites I've tried to order from that ask me my country and THEN choke because there is no way to correlate with a ZIP code. Digging around the small print, they only ship to US and Hawaii. Why the hell didn't they mention that earlier instead of wasting my time?

    I hope in response to this new paperwork, companies make it clear up front where they ship to.

    And since this means I still can't buy mp3s and kindle books from instead of's the point?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


  16. captain veg Silver badge

    looks good to me

    Don't understand the negative tone of the article. Is there some chopper chafing going on here?

    I look forward to being able to order UK-QUERTY keyboards and portables (among other things that I can't get here) from the UK and have them delivered to where I live, which is not in the UK. At the moment the catch is always that the vendor won't deliver to anywhere other than the cardholder's address, nor to anywhere outside of Blighty.


    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: looks good to me

      They still won't deliver outside of Blighty, but they'll take your order and put it to one side for you to collect.

      See what the problem is?

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: looks good to me

        Well, that's a whole lot less of a problem to me. I just get a friend or relly to go collect and post it to me. Massive improvement.


      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: looks good to me

        You can pay a courier to go to their warehouse and collect it. It will cost more per item than if they are going to collect an entire lorry load of stuff every day for all their customers, but it is doable.

        The place of supply for VAT purposes will then be the warehouse door so you pay local VAT on it rather than it being subject to the distance selling regulations for VAT which may require them to register in your country.

    2. JohnG

      Re: looks good to me

      "At the moment the catch is always that the vendor won't deliver to anywhere other than the cardholder's address, nor to anywhere outside of Blighty."

      This varies, depending on the vendor. Some UK vendors will send an invoice to the cardholder's address and the goods elsewhere. Some vendors will take orders and deliver to addresses outside the UK, although they usually want the card and delivery addresses to match.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The whole EU project sounds more like a game of "whack-a-mole" with every new announcement.

    This initiative seems to be trying to address issues with a top-down approach but which need bottom up.

    #voteleave is currently a UK only project - and when we do #voteleave I suspect some other nations will find themselves reconsidering the wisdom of being part of the Franco-German empire but having accepted the Euro as their currency they're probably screwed.

    1. bloggsthesecond

      Replacing the EU (with all its faults) is going to help us how, exactly on this point? On exports, we will need to be WEEE compliant. On imports, we will save money by putting all this stuff (and more besides) into landfill instead of all this recycling claptrap?

  18. Glen Warburton

    Anti EU bias

    That's interesting, how long have the Register been a swivel eyed looney tune UKIP supporting site?

  19. Rural area satellite.

    Our European Confederacy where everybody wants to co-decide is well on its way making it easier to sell from outside the EU into the EU.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021