EBay is lobbying the European Parliament today to outlaw what it calls a culture of "digital protectionism" in Europe.
Consumers are losing out on €1.1bn worth of savings because traditional retailers and brand owners use anomalies in European trading laws to maintain different prices for the same goods in different EU countries, claims eBay.
Current laws allow these anticompetitive practices to continue and clearly contravene the spirit of the single market, the company says.
EBay is calling for the European Commission to overhaul the "patchwork" of 27 different EU competition, consumer and trademark regulations.
The auction giant has already secured the support of Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McReevy as well as several MEPs.
"Unclear rules on distributors' ability to use the internet to market and sell authentic goods are stunting the growth of online trade in Europe," said Finnish MEP Piia Noora Kauppi.
"They are denying traders access to new markets and consumers to greater choice and value. As European legislators we cannot allow this to continue."
Kuneva spoke out yesterday after research revealed slow growth in cross-border e-commerce compared to domestic online trade.
To reinforce its case, eBay is presenting research to EU commissioners showing that unrestricted online shopping can save consumers in the UK, France and Germany an average of 17 per cent across a basket of 12 key product categories.
This amounts to €980m in those three countries alone, and €1.1bn across all member states, according to eBay.
Consumers are not benefiting from these potential savings because of " outdated restrictions on cross-border trade and increasing use of 'selective distribution' clauses prohibiting online sales of branded products".
Doug McCallum, European senior vice president at eBay, said: "The uncertainty around EU rules on vertical restraints allows too much wiggle room for certain manufacturers to restrict online buying and selling, which we believe can be used to control or unduly influence the market."
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