The European Union it put an end to customs controls among its member countries years ago, but the emergence of digital businesses lifted virtual borders. The European Commission has found that 63% of virtual platforms put obstacles to citizens to buy from other countries through the Internet and, in addition, have substantial price differences between States for the same product.
To avoid these circumstances, a community regulation, which came into force last December, puts an end to the geographical blockade on mobile devices. Some online commerce companies use the IP of the electronic device from which the purchase is made to redirect to the local page. In this way, they put obstacles to access exclusive offers or products that are offered in other countries of the Union.
Brussels has opened about a dozen investigations to companies that limited cross-border shopping. The Commission has accelerated its plans at the end of the year to break down these barriers that hinder trade within the EU countries, also in terms of bank payments. Since December, companies can no longer block or divert a consumer's access to their platforms for geographical reasons or because their credit card comes from another country. This obstacle is mainly caused, according to the Commission, in the sectors of electrical appliances (89%), electronics and computing (79%) or fashion (63%), but also in the leisure or reservations sector. travel. Member countries should now watch that companies comply with EU legislation.
The European Comission believes that this measure is a giant step, but it is not the only method that some multinationals follow to prevent purchases from one country to another. The investigation into the American fashion firm Guess revealed that it reached distribution agreements with its authorized retailers that restricted the use of its brand on the Internet, prevented them from advertising online or directly did not let them sell to other States. This commercial policy allowed Guess, according to Competition, to keep the prices of its products between 5% and 10% higher in 11 Eastern European countries than in the rest of the Union.
Brussels imposed a fine of 40 million euros for these practices on the Los Angeles-based multinational. But, according to community sources, the Commission has a dozen more open investigations. Among the companies under the competition lens are Nike; tourist companies Rewe, Kuoni, Thomas Cook or Meliá and video game distributors such as Bandai, Valve, Koch Media or Focus Home. Before, they had to change their commercial policy Mango, Oysho, Pull & Bear, Topman or De Longhi, among others.
Struggles against tributary holes
The last of the barriers that the EU wants to break is that of bank payments in member countries outside the euro zone. The European Parliament and the Council of the EU already agreed on measures to protect consumers against "excessive charges" for currency conversions. That decision goes beyond online commerce. When a citizen of a single currency country travels to another EU State that has not adopted it and pays with his credit or debit card, for example, the terminal offers him the possibility of paying the invoice with the local currency or in euros. In that last case, a commission is charged. Consumers should be able to compare the price of a product with or without conversion commission, both in ATMs and in shops or restaurants, according to the new regulation. Consumer organizations have warned that the regulations are insufficient.
The agreement on charges in conversions in countries outside the euro zone disappointed the consumer organization BEUC for not going further and lowering those commissions. "It is disconcerting that the European Commission and the Parliament surrendered so easily to member countries," said Monique Goyens, the entity's general director. The association has in its hands several studies that indicate the costs that these practices have for consumers. For example, 1,500 transactions made by Norwegian citizens abroad were examined and it was concluded that only in four cases did they gain by doing so in their local currency. Another study by the German organization Stiftung Warentest focused on 11 EU countries and concluded that the client pays between 2.6% and 12% more when he chooses his currency instead of the local currency. The highest costs were recorded in the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.