The European Union will be forming a new task force to carry out a major inquiry into the nature of cross-border e-commerce, and its implications for pricing, order fulfilment, and customer satisfaction. At the time of announcement, little was known about the actual details of this inquiry, and what methods would be used to gather the relevant data.
As of this week the inquiry is officially underway, and so the European Union task force has revealed exactly what it will be doing as part of this investigation. In turn, this may give the cross border e-commerce industry more of an idea about what the ramifications of this inquiry might be.
The main aim of the investigation to ascertain whether geoblocking, the process by which customers are not allowed to access foreign versions of a website, is preventing customers from accessing a fair e-commerce market - if you travelled to France or Germany, you would not stopped from buying products at a discounted rate.
So how will this investigation work? So far we know that the European Union has requested that stakeholders in major e-commerce corporations like Amazon and eBay fill in questionnaires about their geoblocking policies and tactics, and information regarding their cross-border sales. It said that it is requesting this information in the first instance in the hope of avoiding forcing the companies to hand over the relevant data. The EU hopes that they will be able to present the findings of the inquiry sometime in 2016.
So how will this inquiry affect cross-border e-commerce fulfilment? The desired result is to create a Single Digital Market, within which customers in the EU can access every country's version of a particular website so that they can shop around for the best prices. If this comes to fruition, it will mean that more and more websites will have to adapt their delivery methods to accommodate cross-border shipping within the European Union. This means that we could see e-commerce retailers trying to undercut each other on international delivery costs.