The European Commission has officially launched an investigation into the eCommerce sector in an attempt to find out why European consumers aren’t buying across national borders.

The aim of the eCommerce investigation, which was first announced in March, is to identify and remove regulatory barriers to cross-border eCommerce.

Over the next few weeks the European Commission will be getting in touch with a number of stakeholders, who will play an important role in the investigation. They will be sending out ‘polite requests’ for information, as well as asking companies to fill in questionnaires.

Only 15% of people buy from other EU countries

According to the latest figures from the European Commission, whilst half of all EU consumers participate in online shopping, only 15% of them buy from sellers based in other EU countries.

One reason that is believed to be the cause of the issue is that there are too many barriers for accessing products and services online across borders, with many suspecting that companies themselves put these barriers in place. With this in mind, the European Commission will be looking into the barriers and the effect they have on both competition and consumers.

The EC takes anti-competitiveness very seriously and will be willing to take action, under EU antitrust rules, against any company that is violating them.

However, it must be considered that it’s not necessarily just barriers that are preventing consumers from buying from eCommerce sites across EU borders. There are a number of other factors that could be influencing consumers’ decision to buy from home grown brands.

Quicker and cheaper delivery

One of the reasons why many people are reluctant to purchase from other EU countries is delivery times. It is much quicker for someone say in the UK to buy from another UK seller than a seller in somewhere like France, Germany or Spain. Most of the time they can expect to receive products in 2-3 working days, if not next day. Sellers shipping internationally simply can’t compete.

Not only is delivery faster but also cheaper. Price will always play an important part of consumers’ purchasing decisions, which is why it’s hardly surprising that they’d prefer to buy products in their own country than pay more to have them shipped from abroad.

In the UK, delivery is usually fairly inexpensive and sometimes even free, so it’s really a no-brainer for UK consumers.

Language Barriers Obstacle eCommerce

Language barriers may prevent people from buying from other EU eCommerce websites.

Language barriers

Another possible issue is language barriers. Some eCommerce websites are only offered in one language, which puts off people speak different languages from shopping there.

In 2011, research by Eurobarometer found that just 18% of people reported buying online in a language other than their own ‘frequently or all of the time,’ while 42% said they never do so.

Companies could be missing out on sales because their eCommerce websites are only aimed at the home market.

Encouraged to buy local

Over the last few years, there have been numerous campaigns, particularly here in the UK, encouraging consumers to buy local. Maybe the message is finally getting through and UK consumers are actually buying from UK retailers as a way of supporting the local economy and benefiting the environment? It’s a long shot but it’s definitely something to consider!


Whilst barriers enforced by eCommerce retailers are likely to play a role in the issue of consumers failing to buy from eCommerce sites across EU borders, there are plenty of other factors that influence consumers’ purchasing decisions too. Preliminary findings from the European Commission’s investigation are expected mid-2016.

Call us here at the Magento eCommerce Agency. We specialise in Magento solutions including multi-language, multi-currency options, which will breakdown the usual European barriers to purchase.


Image credits: MPD01605 and Guudmorning!