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[FYI] CEC Byrne: 'Making the virtual virtuous - towards a new approach to e-Consumers'

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/ European Communities, 2000.  

Record Control Number: 14450  

Date: 2000-03-07  

Category: General policy  

General Information:  

Europe must move swiftly to overcome the consumer confidence barrier 
in e-commerce to ensure the development of a Single Online Market, 
said David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, 
speaking at the European Consumer Centre in Dublin, Ireland, on 3 
March 2000.  

Speaking on behalf of the Commission, My Byrne suggested measures to 
encourage quality and service in e-commerce, and to ensure legal 
redress when things go wrong, allowing the European online market to 
achieve the same success as in the United States.  

'In this cybereconomy, without the traditional reassurance of bricks 
and mortar, a new policy environment is needed to help overcome the 
barriers to consumer confidence,' he said.  

'And for many businesses consumer confidence is the holy grail. If we 
are to succeed in bringing the European economy online we need to act 
quickly to overcome the consumer confidence barrier.'  

The Commissioner said the time is right for the Commission to define 
a new approach to e-commerce and e-consumers, and proposed three core 
elements requiring attention.  

To ensure most transaction are trouble free, he said the Commission 
should take steps to encourage a market environment that rewards best 
business practice, such as stimulating the development of trustmarks 
on the web and mobilising financial services to provide credit card 
chargeback facilities.  

Mr Byrne also wishes to promote easy to use out of court settlement 
procedures, including a range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) 
mechanisms and linking up to a network of existing EU national ADR 
schemes. This would be the first step in the development of a 
comprehensive redress system.  

There should also be a legal safety net with the Court as last resort 
in order to guarantee justice, he said.  

In addition, 'the Commission should work closely with the US to set 
up the rules of the game for the emerging e-commerce marketplace.  

'European business can then build on its strength to develop a 
competitive service culture to generate growth in the global new 

To set the ground for his new e-Consumer approach, the Consumer 
Protection Commissioner called upon decision makers, business and 
consumer organisations to express their views on the way forward.  

He pointed to several reasons why consumers do not trust e-commerce 
as a transactional medium due to the inherent nature of e-commerce.  

Currently the consumer bears all the transaction risk because payment 
is made before receipt. Transmitting financial and personal details 
also entails a security risk. In the US the weakness of 'e-tailers' 
delivery operations has been highlighted prompting concerns over the 
performance of the contract. Consumers report that e-commerce sites 
are less tangible than a non-virtual shop, and there is some 
uncertainty about how to complain or seek redress.  

If something is not done to address these fears, My Byrne warned that 
Europe would face a number of risks.  

The Commissioner cautioned that the Single Online Market will not 
develop properly as consumers continue to buy online from within 
their Member State. If barriers in the minds of consumers are not 
overcome, the business-consumer market will not fulfil its potential 
for EU operators. There is also a danger that small and medium sized 
enterprises loose out in favour of established brands and retailers. 
Finally, without a Single Online Market, Europe 'will fail to develop 
a thriving and competitive e-commerce sector with global reach' as in 
the US.  

If the right steps are taken, however, My Byrne promised the e-
economy will bring significant economic benefits for Europe.  

'In the right policy environment, a dynamic service-oriented business 
culture will win over consumers, increase Internet transactions and 
generate growth. And Europe's e-economy could log on to a new era of 
prosperity,' he said.  

Data Source Provider: Rapid  

Document Reference: Based on speech DN: SPEECH/00/65  

Subject Index Codes: Information Processing, Information Systems