16 November 2012
‘A European trust seal can boost cross-border online shopping’
The introduction of the Euro was an important step towards economic integration for consumers in the Euro zone. Since 2002 there has been no need to exchange currencies when shopping abroad.
The introduction of SEPA came as the next logical step, as consumers increasingly buy products online. The adoption of a single Euro payment standard can easily trigger cross-border spending. That is why the European web-merchant organization, Ecommerce Europe, aims to introduce an international trust seal for websites.
Ecommerce Europe payments committee chairman Paul Alfing recently described the advantages of a single European market for online shopping in a Dutch blog post. Alfing participates in Ecommerce Europe on behalf of the Dutch ecommerce organisation Thuiswinkel.org. “SEPA removes the necessity to own bank accounts in every country in which a website operates”, says Alfing. At the same time, cross-border online shopping introduces new challenges. “It is quite easy to order a book abroad and get it delivered, but what about buying a television from a foreign country? Delivery costs are substantial and what do you do when it’s the wrong version or colour and you want to return it?”
Each country in the SEPA zone has its own national quality seal so consumers know that the quality of their purchase meets the national standard. But how do consumers know if a foreign website delivers the same quality as a national website? “Trust is a key issue in buying goods online. Bigger stores like Amazon are well-known and people trust them instantly. Smaller shops have more difficulties to earn the same level of trust from consumers,” continues Alfing.
The question remains on how those small shops can gain the trust of potential buyers abroad. The answer is pretty simple, explains Alfing. “Create trust with a European trust seal. Although there is no need to replace national quality seals, a European logo will be more effective in multiple countries. Ecommerce Europe should take the lead on this project. A European seal, combined with high quality service and a broad variety of payment systems can boost cross-border commerce significantly. Of course the EU has to push harmonisation of regulations and carry out enforcement at the same time.”
Founded last June by leading national e-commerce associations across Europe, the European payments committee, which Alfing is chairman of, represents companies selling products or services online to consumers in Europe. So far, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have joined the organization. Its mission is to advance the interests and influence of e-commerce in Europe through advocacy, communications and networking.
The recently created association is tasked with profiling e-commerce in the European Union. The introduction of SEPA and the foundation of Ecommerce Europe is a perfect coincidence. “Although we were already in the process of creating the association, SEPA has helped us to formalize our plans much faster. Now we need to get more countries and members to join us, so we have a stronger voice in Europe. With us, the European Union has a true partner to discuss international online shopping laws,” says Alfing.
Currently, one of the priorities Ecommerce Europe is developing is the European hallmark or trust seal. “It is quite easy to create a trust seal, but it needs support from all the countries and their citizens. How can we solve the problem of legal differences between countries? By working together to tackle this. The more countries join us, the faster we can boost cross-border commerce.”