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e-Commerce in the European Union


The European Parliament and the Council adopted on 8 June 2000 an European Directive on electronic commerce (Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain legal aspects of information society, including the electronic commerce, in the Internal Market).

The European Directive was preceded by isolated policies of member states of the union. For example, from October 1997, Francis Lorentz undertook a mission on Electronic Commerce on behalf of the French government, which was presented on 8 May 1998 by the Minister of Economy Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Cross-border e-commerce within the European Union

With globalization, the internet has become a powerful vehicle for electronic commerce. However, issues relating to the purchase of products abroad reveal difficulties, especially in case of dispute.

European countries need to transcribe them into their national legislation directives for this field, which will make uniform rules between each country of the European Union.

Within the B2C and when a purchase takes place outside of the European Union, it should be careful to know who you’re doing business, and to know the conditions of the sale. In case of serious dispute, the only recourse would be filing a complaint both in the country of the buyer and the seller’s country.

It is better to also have notions of law of the country where the seller is located.

When it comes to B2B, the consumer law rather leaves room for the international trade law.

When a product is purchased from abroad, customs duties and VAT (or its equivalent) are to be paid as if the product was purchased on national soil.

In practice:

  • for all purchases made within the European Union, there are no customs duties and VAT that applies is that of the country of purchase. It may be worth buying in European countries where VAT is lower (for example, in Germany was 15%). Attention for France, departments and overseas territories are considered export territories compared to metropolitan France;
  • for all purchases made outside the EU, customs duties and VAT are payable at the entrance to the area. Since the buyer is usually not present when control passes the border (most often it is an airport), postal services are sworn to collect these taxes. In general, these taxes are applied in the form of package or globally ( product cost + shipping, for example) which can renchérir much the final cost of purchase. Private companies are better organized for this work than traditional postal services.

Electronic products are often stopped and taxed at the border. Only books which benefit from VAT and customs duties very small are never blocked by the postal service because the cost of recovery would be higher than the taxes themselves.

Environmental impacts and logistical challenges

The “virtual” “intangible” nature of e-commerce might suggest that selling online is environmentally friendly. Some studies, yet few, unfortunately tend to doubt the virtuous effects of electronic commerce in this area. According to a study on online sales of books, the United States, 73 megajoules ( MJ) per book are consumed by electronic commerce, while only 53 megajoules are the traditional trade; in Japan, in the city of Tokyo, electronic commerce requires 9.3 MJ per book while the traditional trade consumes 1.6 MJ .

Studies on sustainable urban mobility show that the topic of urban goods deliveries is a major issue of CO2 emissions (over a third of urban emissions), NOx, particulates and noise in the city, as well as congestion urban . For development of Internet sales has a positive impact , it is necessary that solutions have been found for the terminal link in the supply chain.

Optimizing the supply chain passes including shipment consolidation in delivery points located near customers. Large companies have developed Relay Pointsmail distribution methods, through specialized subsidiaries as Mondial Relay (3 Suisses International), Sogep (La Redoute), or Distrihome (Yves Rocher).

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