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European e-commerce access doubles in five years

02 September 2011 - 13:23 by Sarah Collinson

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The number of people in the EU who use safe shopping online to buy goods and services has doubled over the last half a decade, according to a study commissioned by the European Parliament.

Back in 2005, around 20 per cent of those living in the EU were using the web to shop but this had increased to 40 per cent in 2010.

Internet access has also broadened significantly, closing in on 70 per cent penetration last year, which is once again almost twice as much as five years previously.

The Netherlands is the best connected country in Europe, with 91 per cent of homes having web access. Meanwhile the worst is Bulgaria, where just a third of households can boast an internet connection of some kind.

Cross-border e-commerce is still relatively uncommon, with around 23 per cent of people carrying out safe shopping online with companies which operate in other EU regions. This means domestic economies are benefitting from online growth to a greater degree than import-export businesses.

Once again the actual level of cross-border shopping varies from nation to nation. In Malta around 90 per cent of consumers actually buy in their goods from other member states, while in Poland this drops to just 10 per cent.

Despite increased consumer interest in e-commerce there is a deficit of companies actually offering their goods and services online. Just 14 per cent of EU firms have e-commerce outlets, which is a figure that has shifted minimally over the past five years.

In Ireland, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, over 20 per cent of businesses have online stores, but places like Italy and Greece only have 10 per cent of businesses selling via the web. This shows that despite the umbrella of the EU, there are still vast differences in the way member states do business.