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EU E-Commerce Competition Investigation Announced

01 April 2015 - 14:23 by Simon Crisp

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The EU is intending to launch an investigation into Europe’s e-commerce market in order to establish whether or not the practice of altering prices on a country-by-country basis is illegal.

Many sites which offer safe shopping online in the UK are also designed to be accessed from other European nations, with currencies and costs being altered to suit customers from different places within the EU. But the Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, argues that this is not only something which could be seen as unethical, but may also break retail regulations.

A number of big name e-commerce brands, including Amazon and Apple, were mentioned in the announcement of the investigation. And it is not just physical products that are going to be scrutinised but also digital media.

This means the films, games and music that people can download from services such as iTunes, where regional variations in pricing often exist, could soon be unified under a single pricing structure, at least within the EU.

This might be a good thing for consumers in the UK, where the strength of the pound can make products more expensive compared with those in other European countries.

Vestager pointed out that people were used to popping across the border or nipping across the Channel to buy goods which were cheaper in another European nation than in their own. But this approach makes less sense online, where borders are eroded by connectivity and competition can exist in the market for shopping online no matter where the consumer is located.

Ultimately, the aim is to make Europe’s e-commerce market much more unified and cohesive for the benefit of consumers and retailers alike. This will mean that companies can sell to customers irrespective of their country of origin, while shoppers can get the best price wherever they live.