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European Consultation on barriers to establishing and operating retail outlets within the EU

21/07/2017
The European Commission has launched a consultation to assess the impact of existing national regulations on retailers in light of the rapid growth of e-commerce and the increasingly multi-channel retail environment.

The European Commission has launched a consultation to assess the impact of existing national regulations on retailers in light of the rapid growth of e-commerce and the increasingly multi-channel retail environment. This consultation is the final stage in the Commission's initiative to identify the best regulatory environment for the establishment and operation of retailers within the EU.

Background

The European Commission regards a competitive retail sector as being essential to the EU economy.  Earlier this year, increasingly concerned about the continued lack of growth in the European retail sector (especially when compared with the less-regulated US market) and the possible negative impact of national restrictions on the sector as a result of the growing importance of e-commerce, the Commission adopted a "Roadmap on Best Practices on Retail Regulation". The Roadmap proposed that Member States adopt a set of voluntary (non-legally binding) best practices to "guide" them when assessing and modernising national rules in order to make it easier for retailers to become established and reduce the operational restrictions they face when expanding into new territories or increasing operations in those territories where they already had a presence.  The Roadmap identified the information that the Commission would need to formulate this guidance and launched a public consultation in order to start gathering it.  

The Consultation

This latest consultation is intended to complete the fact-finding phase of the Commission's initiative and focuses on the implications of the growing importance of e-commerce and changing consumer habits for the retail sector and its regulatory framework and on the opportunities and obstacles for the integration of the EU retail market.

The consultation, which closes on 8 October 2017, seeks input on a number of specific issues relating to:

  • whether existing national regulatory frameworks need to be reviewed in order to address the growth in e-commerce;

  • identifying the conditions which are creating the most significant barriers to entry into the retail sector and how they could be addressed;

  • the impact on retailers of:

    • regulations relating to the day-to-day operation of shops (such as opening hours, sales promotions, discounts and product-specific sales' restrictions);

    • regulations limiting the freedom of retailers to source products from whom and where they want;

    • territorial supply constraints; and

    • retail-specific taxes;

  • whether special requirements for the sale of restricted products are justified in relation to online sales; and

  • whether retailers face any difficulties in the enforcement of existing regulations either on offline or online sales.

Next Steps

If you wish to contribute to the consultation you are invited to submit your responses to the Commission's questionnaire here.

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