One quarter of European retailers believe their online revenues could be increased significantly if local laws in Europe were harmonised to encourage e-commerce trade.
The new research from consultancy firm Accenture shows many businesses are struggling to navigate diverse local shopping laws, regulations and practices that exist in Europe
In particular, the diversity of laws on product returns, packaging, consumer transactions, taxes and employment are causing businesses problems, according to the research.
However, Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture's retail practice, said the consultancy was beginning to witness retailers seizing the opportunities of cross-border online sales by developing new operating models.
"We are starting to see retailers shifting from a defensive position, focused on protecting their market share and capitalising on their domestic market multi-channel opportunity, to a more offensive position aimed at tackling the cross-border challenge in Europe," said Hoffman.
The Accenture study was conducted for the European Retail Round Table (ERRT), an organisation that represents large retailers.
The European Commission (EC) last week announced its intention to double e-commerce sales and the internet's contribution to European GDP by 2015 in order to help drive job creation and mitigate the ongoing economic crisis.
The institution said that, at present, while e-commerce sales were strong, there are numerous obstacles preventing further growth and that one of these is firms' uncertainty around particular European local laws.
"Internet Europe is still a patchwork of different laws, rules, standards and practices, often with little or no interoperability," said the EC in a report that outlined an action plan for building trust in the Digital Single Market.
"The practical difficulties related to cross-border transactions (payments, deliveries, dispute resolution, risk of abuse) discourage people from taking full advantage of the internet to purchase or supply their goods and services," the report added.
The EC suggested the Directive on Electronic Commerce, introduced in 2000, had removed a series of obstacles to cross-border services, but that the directive could still be better implemented.
According to the Interactive Media in Retail Group, the number of European online retailers grew 22 per cent in 2010 and in 2011 overtook their US counterparts in volume for the first time.
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