eBay Launches "Call for Action" Campaign in Europe

Richard Brewer-Hay

eBay launched a long-term Call for Action campaign in Brussells yesterday, aimed at reforming the current European Union (EU) Competition, Consumer and Trademark Law. The launch meeting called on the EU to modernize competition, consumer and trademark law in order to address what it labeled “digital protectionism.”

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The key speakers at the event (in the photo and from left to right) included:
– Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services
– Edit Herczog, Member of the European Parliament (MEP)
– Doug McCallum, Senior Vice President, eBay Marketplaces, Europe
– Arlene McCarthy, MEP
– Meglena Kuneva, European Commissioner for Consumer Policy
– Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, MEP

Speaking at the event, Doug McCallum asserted the following:

We need to end the climate of legal uncertainty for EU customers, SME sellers and intermediaries which mean that:
1. EU consumers are denied the full benefits of price competition and choice;
2. EU consumer confidence in Internet-based markets is unnecessarily undermined; and
3. EU consumers and vendors using the Internet receive discriminatory treatment.

The Call for Action is in 5 specific areas:
1. Clarify EU competition rules to prohibit undue restrictions on buying and selling online.
2. Stop certain trademark owners from artificially segmenting the global market through restrictions on parallel imports.
3. Launch a review of the EU digital environment to see how best to harness its potential for the benefit of consumers.
4. Create a single set of EU consumer rules to make cross-border trade easier, cheaper and less burdensome for businesses.
5. Ensure proper and full implementation of the EU Services Directive.

“As it stands, the uncertainty around EU rules on vertical restraints allows too much wiggle room for certain manufacturers to restrict online buying and selling,” said Doug McCallum. “We believe this can be used to control or unduly influence the market.”

Preliminary results of a third-party study undertaken by Frontier Economics show that eBay buyers in the UK, Germany and France can obtain savings of around 17% on average in 12 key categories of products. By purchasing new products on eBay, the combined consumer savings in the UK, Germany and France are around €980 million per annum. These figures imply that across all eBay’s European operations, buyers on eBay in the EEA make savings totalling around €1.1 billion per annum.

“We need to ensure that the digital environment is one where consumers thrive. Let me be clear, there is no place in Europe’s Single Market for artificial geographical restrictions which hold consumers back within national borders,” said Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Protection Commissioner. “I believe the time has come to look closely at the legitimacy of market partitioning along national boundaries, notably in online retail. We must act now to give our citizens the future market place they deserve.”

Given that the Call for Action is aimed at fixing a “patchwork of 27 different consumer protection regimes” it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming months.

Please email ebayink@ebay.com if interested in reading the full report.