The EU Consumer Commissioner has called for new rules to make it easier for consumers to buy online across national borders.
EU research has highlighted a growing gap between the high volume of domestic e-commerce and lacklustre cross-border purchases.
"We must see to it that the adoption of the internet is not unnecessarily slowed down by our failure to remove important regulatory barriers," said EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva.
"[It is also important] to keep the market clean from rapidly evolving scams and misleading practices, and to address key consumer issues of privacy and trust."
Research by the EU shows that, although e-commerce is growing at a national level, cross-border trade is failing to keep up.
Some 33 per cent of EU consumers bought at least one item online in 2008 compared with 27 per cent in 2006. But cross-border trade rose to just seven per cent from six per cent in the same period.
Similarly, 56 per cent of consumers with internet access at home made a purchase online in 2008 compared with 50 per cent in 2006, but only 13 per cent made a cross-border purchase compared with 12 per cent in 2006.
Kuneva outlined various measures to address the issue, including clearer laws and a look at artificial restrictions that keep trade within national borders.
"We have a jungle of complex laws which have evolved piecemeal. The result is a maze of different rights and practices, from cooling-off periods to guarantees that are as unclear to consumers as they are confusing for business," she said.
"We should also not be forced to shop within our national borders. Yet we cannot buy computers or train tickets freely across the EU. We are forced to buy domestic."
Other measures include ensuring that issues of personal privacy, such as how personal data is collected and used, do not undermine consumer trust.
The Commissioner will also examine internet restrictions as part of a revision of EU competition law, and will look at pre-empting unfair commercial practices online.
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