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Cross-Border Ecommerce

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Guest commentary: Walter Trezek

We’re living in an increasingly networked world. Yesterday’s analogue structures, designed to distribute goods and services, are being replaced by digital, collective and networked applications, driven by individual customer benefits. Ecommerce is gaining importance in the digital single market. Double-digit rates of growth increase the pressure on all players to put in place the missing framework conditions needed to meet customer demands.

The status of cross-border ecommerce reflects this development: harmonised customs procedures, VAT, and consumer protection measures are still missing. As are realistic market prices for delivery, binding and comparable delivery quality standards and standards which facilitate coordination between different delivery networks, as well as systems which meet the specifications for a European single digital market.

Fundamental elements of the digital single market

The 4 fundamental freedoms of the European Union – free movement of people, goods, services and capital – will also apply in the digital market. Trade will use the elements of the digital single market. Trust services which protect communications, content and identities take logistics, transport and the delivery of goods and services to a whole new level of efficency.

Meeting the interests of the consumer results in trackable shipments delivered according to the customer‘s own specifications, e.g. in a drop-off box, left at a branch outlet, etc.. Growing parcel volumes can only be managed through greater efficiency. Limited resources mean 15 different delivery organisations operating in parallel in cities or remote areas is not viable. Optimised transport and logistics and efficient last-mile delivery solutions must be open to everyone.

Shared standards and upgrading analogue solutions into state-of-the-art technologies and services helps overcome the challenges of the digital market. As Europe‘s leading ecommerce association, over the past years Ecommerce Europe has analysed the challenges facing online retail. Calls for legislative change have been ineffective. Working together with all those affected, Ecommerce Europe has dedicated itself to drawing up the digital technical and service-related standards needed for a single digital market.


Successful mouthpiece for European ecommerce

In 2015 Ecommerce Europe began shaping the standard for measuring the quality of cross-border parcel delivery. With a European standard track & trace can be used to measure the quality of all parcel service deliveries. The quality of complaints processing by delivery services was standardised, and has been adopted into consumer protection law in most EU states.

In 2016 the open and transparent labelling elements used in global supply chain management  were added to the closed labelling systems used by major parcel and postal services. The relevant technical specification is designed to allow merchants to apply end-to-end, delivery provider-independent barcodes (GS1 standards) to parcel labels in addition to the proprietory delivery service barcode.

Combining the parcel content with its label offers further synergies. In future these can help define the necessary interfaces with authorities and other service providers along the value chain. In 2017 and 2018 standards for advanced electronic data exchange will allow data to be transferred to customers and financial authorities in advance. Consequently, the consumer will be presented with the final price, including customs duties and VAT, at the time of purchase.

Security-relevant information for transport service providers (air freight, etc.) will also be sent in advance. This enables goods and freight which require special handling to be transported accordingly (cooled, heated, etc.).

Consumer rights, such as warranties and guarantees, as well as customised instructions, can be actively connected with the parcel delivery and its known content.

The goal is to overcome the hurdles of the analogue world through the use of networked, open and freely accessible digital solutions, or to remove these hurdles altogether with solutions based on transparent and cooperative systems.

Walter Trezek is the Chairman of the Consultative Committee (CC) of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

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