Who ever thought Interflora would be touted as being from the future?
The European Commission is to probe the e-commerce sector to find out why people aren’t buying across borders. According to the Commish, despite half of all EU consumers shopping online, only around 15% of them bought from a seller based in another EU country. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager suspects that: “It’s …
Friday 27th March 2015 12:25 GMT Roland6
International ordering with delivery by a business local to the intended recipient was something Interflora got right years back (okay the choice isn't great and you are to some extent buying blind and relying on the local florist to interpret your brief, but at least you can do it). It has always irritated me that many international businesses insist that if you are UK based say, then the only site you can order from is your national site and hence shipping is from the UK and not from their operation local to your stated delivery address.
Friday 27th March 2015 12:34 GMT Tanuki
I always liked the idea of setting up Interfauna as a competitor to Interflora. So you could send people animals as well as flowers.
However the legality of facilitating ng cross-border procurement of that crate of rabid Wolverines for your ex-partner as a friendly 'reminder' of your divorce-anniversary could be a bit problematic.
Friday 27th March 2015 11:45 GMT james 68
Is she daft?
The answer is quite simple - 13% of people buy from foreign sites because 13% of people can comfortably understand foreign languages.
I for example can handily communicate in French or German but buggered if I could understand Greek or Polish, hence I would not buy from those countries due to the fact that while I might want to order say a graphics card, but in all likelyhood would place an order for a pallet of jaffa cakes by mistake.
Friday 27th March 2015 12:32 GMT JamesThorpe
I don't speak a word of German, but the similarities between amazon.de and amazon.co.uk coupled with Chrome translating the pages made ordering a bunch of Carcassonne expansions easy peasy. And far cheaper than their English language couterparts.
Interestingly, the only postage marks on the box were Royal Mail, indicating that there must be enough people in the UK ordering from amazon.de for them to ship everything over together, then post it as normal.
Friday 27th March 2015 12:40 GMT PhilipJ
umm, if a shop ships to foreign countries, it usually has at least an English version of its page. Quite often other languages as well.
In the last 6 months, I've ordered more stuff from Germany than from shops in my country - simply because they did not have the products that I wanted, or had very long shipment times whereas the German shops had everything available in their warehouses, ready to be shipped.
The only thing holding back cross-border commerce in my opinion are worries about possible issues with warranty claims.
Friday 27th March 2015 13:02 GMT Voland's right hand
She is daft all right
The language barrier is one reason.
The other one is that amazon crosses the barrier massively now. You do not need to go to a foreign language site, you can get the same item from amazon marketplace in your own language.
Looking at my purchases over the last 1 year, a significant number of them while bought on amazon.co.uk ended up coming from Germany: Daughter's scooter for her birthday (real one with inflatable tyres, not the sh*t you get from halfords), shelves, tools, electricals, bathroom hooks - you name it. One or two things came from France and a couple of smaller items from Holland.
The sole reason for me to look at foreign sites in the past has been artificial market barriers. You cannot get continentally aligned (for Left Hand Drive) headlights and spares as well as winter spares such as pre-heaters, etc in the UK. That is quite funny as some of the are made in the UK too. That is mostly gone now as well (again, courtesy of amazon marketplace), so why bother?
Friday 27th March 2015 13:11 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: She is daft all right
"You cannot get continentally aligned (for Left Hand Drive) headlights and spares as well as winter spares such as pre-heaters, etc in the UK. That is quite funny as some of the are made in the UK too"
Because the market for them in the UK is small, so once made they are boxed on pallets ready to truck to the continent. It's really not worth the manufacturer setting up a system to sell them directly to endusers in the UK, nor would most UK distributors want to take a pallet load "on spec".
Friday 27th March 2015 13:13 GMT Lars
It would surprise me if sites who want to sell within the EU did not provide English as a choice on their site. But I will agree about the postal part and the payment, I don't like PayPal. The address problem seems to be a more of a US problem where you have to enter the "State" than a EU problem. Then again if you don't know the name of the site then you won't use it. Much to improve no doubt.
Friday 27th March 2015 19:27 GMT Voland's right hand
Sunday 29th March 2015 01:48 GMT Alan Brown
"You obviously never ever had to deal with the French."
Or french who decide they can speak english perfectly well thank you very much and don't need native english speakers correcting them.
(Chinglish is a walk in the park by comparison. I had to rewrite French TRT technical manuals in the 1980s because the ones they supplied the telco I worked for were gibberish. TRT were "not amused" when they found out.)
Friday 27th March 2015 13:24 GMT Pete 2
> 13% of people can comfortably understand foreign languages.
13% of people know about Google translate AND have the nous to find the same product described in their native language AND manage to get a decent price for inter-country delivery charges AND trust "foreign" postal / courier services.
Sounds like a pretty high percentage, to me.
Friday 27th March 2015 15:33 GMT Dazed and Confused
is she daft?
Well, on the balance of probability I'd say yes :-)
But what she is saying is in direct contradiction of of the policy implemented by her predecessors. When I complain that Amazon France or Germany wouldn't see me things that were in stock in France or German but not in stock in the UK, whereas car companies have been fined millions for refusing cross border sales I was told that the commission didn't feel there was anything wrong with Amazon helping to create an artificial shortage in the UK for marketing reason. Go figure.
Fortunately other companies in German where more than happy to help me out and sell me what they had in stock.
So, please put your own house in order before giving the public a hard time for this.
Sunday 29th March 2015 01:39 GMT Alan Brown
Most intra-EU trading is done in english.
The big issues are what was raised by the Commish - traders limiting access, but also by banks slapping swingeing surchanges on when there are different currencies involved and the rather minor issue of "support" - particularly if it means tech have to come from the source country or kit has to be sent back there.
As a UK buyer I've been amused on more than on occasion by a UK reseller going ballistic upon being told that we're buying off another supplier in the EU - many seem to think that they have "exclusive UK sales rights" and we aren't legally allowed to cross the channel for stuff. My response in all cases has been "Feel free to take us to court - if you can find a lawyer who will take your case on."
Friday 27th March 2015 11:51 GMT Dominion
Friday 27th March 2015 11:55 GMT The Crow From Below
"The European Commission is to probe the e-commerce sector to find out why people aren’t buying across borders."
Isn't it obvious?
I live in Danmark, we have a fantastic postal system as does the UK, but still It takes around 3 days to get a package from the UK to my door. If I order from Danmark I get it next day. That's point number one.
Point number 2 is on shipping restrictions, parcel force (for example) refused to send a package to me from my parents because it contained some aftershave in it, citing restrictions on the aeroplane...I took the same package back in my hand luggage via easy jet.
Point 3 is on delays when the country does not have a quick postal service (kind of the same as point 1 but 3-4 days is acceptable, 3-4 weeks to get a package from Spain to Danmark is not).
Point 4 is on delays caused by the tax offices in both countries seeing if they can in anyway get money out of you (something I have had to fight many times).
Point 5 is on the fact that my bank will charge me an extortionate rate for foreign payments. This is the most common reason for not wanting to purchase across borders when on line, it costs more.
So there is my 5 point report on the matter, can I have my €10mil consultancy fee now?
Friday 27th March 2015 11:59 GMT WylieCoyoteUK
Friday 27th March 2015 15:06 GMT John Brown (no body)
"As for delivery, you might get it quicker from china than France."
My wife buys a lot of stuff from China for her handicrafts. Shipping times are variable from a few days to a couple of months. But the P&P is almost invariably cheaper than sourcing from a local UK supplier. Even when the product is the same price (hah!), UK P&P shoves the price above importing from China.
It's always small, low value packages for personal use, so as far as we know, know VAT or other taxes are payable.
Friday 27th March 2015 12:03 GMT Dan 55
Friday 27th March 2015 12:13 GMT Blank-Reg
Friday 27th March 2015 12:14 GMT fattybacon
I was just totting up my Amazon buying experiences (UK, US, CA, FR, DE & JP) so far, the other day and marvelling at how easy it was, my browser translates every page pretty well, and they keep a consistent experience so even without auto-translation I've managed a successful purchase.
The problem is not usually Amazon, it's the suppliers who geo-restrict things, and often Amazon say this item can be shipped to you, you can even filter on ship internationally, but when you finally get your basket to the check you will be stopped.
I just bought a handheld games console from France, arrived in 4 working days, was £30 cheaper than amazon uk including delivery.
Friday 27th March 2015 14:09 GMT BristolBachelor
Amazon have got really bad recently. I often buy from the UK (where a DVD costs £2.50 instead of the 15€ here in Spain). Also Amazon UK has so many things that Amazon Spain does not.
Now they smack an instant charge on buying anything, and at the last minute say it can't be shipped to Spain, with a helpful link. The helpful link says that it can be shipped to Spain. If some Bozo came here, I'd explain the problems to him personally.
Friday 27th March 2015 16:23 GMT Anonymous Coward
> The problem is not usually Amazon, it's the suppliers who geo-restrict things, and often Amazon say this item can be shipped to you, you can even filter on ship internationally, but when you finally get your basket to the check you will be stopped.
Strange, my experience is the reverse.
On a number of occasions, I have tried to buy from sellers on Amazon who state that they ship globally, only to be told by Amazon's website at the very last moment that it can't be shipped to me. Usually it is CDs or DVDs. It's becoming a bigger and bigger problem.
Also, this new legislation that they were talking about regarding VAT being charged at the buyer's country rather than the sellers is a big problem for small businesses. I can't see that helping much.
Friday 27th March 2015 19:37 GMT dorsetknob
Saturday 28th March 2015 07:34 GMT jonathanb
The VAT rules are:
They charge VAT in their home country (Luxembourg), unless their sales to the EU country in question are above the distance selling threshold for that country, which can be set at either €100,000 or €35,000, or the approximate equivalent in local currency. It is £70,000 for the UK and Isle of Man. For digital goods (apps, kindle books, mp3s etc), they must charge VAT in the customer's country regardless of sales level, and it is the same for goods subject to excise duty such as alcohol and tobacco, though I don't think Amazon sells them.
As Amazon likely sells more than £70,000 of stuff every hour, never mind every year, they do have to charge UK VAT.
Friday 27th March 2015 18:53 GMT Anonymous Coward
"I was just totting up my Amazon buying experiences (UK, US, CA, FR, DE & JP) so far, the other day and marvelling at how easy it was, [...]"
Bought a CD from Amazon Japan - not cheap but not available in the UK. Their only shipping option for anything was courier - not cheap. When it arrived it fortunately was just under the UK Customs threshold. Otherwise the courier's paperwork informed me that they would have charged me £50 for clearing it and collecting the fee.
I never buy anything expensive from the USA for the same reason - even ordinary post can incur a Royal Mail "collection" fee of double figures. There's also the risk of a USA Amazon Partner labelling it as a "gift" at a much reduced value - and it's you who is then in trouble with HMRC for a false declaration.
Buying a DVD from Amazon France cost a small fortune in delivery charges - and it wasn't express either.
Sunday 29th March 2015 01:53 GMT Alan Brown
"When it arrived it fortunately was just under the UK Customs threshold. Otherwise the courier's paperwork informed me that they would have charged me £50 for clearing it and collecting the fee."
Other couriers have more reasonable policies. DHL for example.
The initial courier charge may end up a fraction higher, but not having to stump up £50 in ridiculous fees makes up the difference.
I'm sure that they can't justify this kind of rent-seeking, but I also suspect that noone can be bothered taking it to small claims to fight it.
Friday 27th March 2015 12:18 GMT DrXym
Visit websites and it becomes all too obvious
In this order:
1) The site doesn't post to international addresses, even in the EU
2) Or if it does, the cost of P&P is silly expensive
3) Or the address details doesn't let you enter a foreign address
4) Or there is a problem processing the payment.
Ironically for small items it's often easier to order stuff from Hong Kong than it is from somewhere else in the EU.
Friday 27th March 2015 13:09 GMT Neil Barnes
Re: Visit websites and it becomes all too obvious
Correct. It costs too much and takes too long to receive the goodies.
I have bought from the continent when I have had no other option, or when I have access to a delivery address in the same country, but on the whole it is simply uneconomic to do so, particularly for toys.
Also, I want instant gratification and I want it *now*.
Friday 27th March 2015 14:34 GMT GrumpyOldMan
Re: Visit websites and it becomes all too obvious
"Ironically for small items it's often easier to order stuff from Hong Kong than it is from somewhere else in the EU."
And a damn site quicker! From recent experience.
As someone pointed out though - I can but something from Amazon Prime and have it next day - from Amazon SARL - in France. But you try buying through Amazon.fr and see how long it takes.
Friday 27th March 2015 12:26 GMT Ryan Kendall
Friday 27th March 2015 12:45 GMT Sooty
Re: Time & Cost
yep, if i can buy something in my own currency, from somewhere that I know abides by our country's sales laws that is coming quickly from near me, and paying local delivery costs then I'm not going to go elsewhere.
I occasionally get things from other european countries, but only when they aren't available locally
Friday 27th March 2015 12:32 GMT leon clarke
What's the definition of a foreign site?
Isn't amazon.co.uk technically in Luxemburg?
In which case many brits buy from foreign sites. I suspect many other national Amazon sites are the same.
(And I think there are EU countries without national Amazon sites, for whom Amazon insists on charging excessive postage fees)
Friday 27th March 2015 12:36 GMT Steve James 1
Sites don't give you info up front
If web sites were to give international shipping costs up front it might be useful. Too many times, I have had to go through a registration process and enter all my details before I can even find out what the shipping cost is to the UK, or even if they ship to the UK anyway. I then see that they don't or it's not cost effective for me to order, so I just give up. But now they have my details I will then end up on a mailing list getting regular emails about a company I can't or don't choose to business with. Basically, too much hassle.
Friday 27th March 2015 13:07 GMT Richard Jones 1
Try and See if You Can Buy?
Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager should try ordering from a range of foreign sites and see what happens. That way she would have direct experience and knowledge.
The other side of the coin is that an awful lot of small or tiny sites would rather not have to deal with the stupid new rules over VAT. Remember that Brown and Blair signed up to while they were working to ruin the country
Friday 27th March 2015 13:12 GMT Necronomnomnomicon
Useful info for anyone who does shop on Amazon
Moneysavingexpert linked to http://www.curiua.com/ the other day, which checks other EU Amazon stores to see if they're selling stuff cheaper. Apparently a lot of the time, they are. Hurrah for the single market, boo to Amazon for bilking us more than our neighbours.
Friday 27th March 2015 13:19 GMT Extra spicey vindaloo
I live in France,
Amazon.com -> Most will not ship to europe, and you inccur huge tax.
Amazon.co.uk -> Most will not ship to europe, when they do it's by royal mail and that takes 5 - 6 weeks if it ever gets here.
Amazon.fr -> 2 -3 days, sent via la poste, pick it up from the post office if on Prime, if not they try to deliver then you pick it up from the post office the following day.
Amazon.de -> 3 - 4days same as .fr
At christmas I bought 4 boxes of lego for my child.
2 from amazon France and 2 from Amazon.co.uk
Amazon France delivered locally one parcel in 2 days, the second one came after 4 days with a Amazon.jp label on it and a nice Origami thankyou message.
1 box of Lego from the UK, arrived 4th of Jan, ordered mid October.
The last box never got to me, and was refunded.
Christmas presents sent from my Mother in the UK via Royal mail, again in october, arrived in mid Feb, the tracking number from La Poste said they took charge of the package 2 days before it was delivered.
I'm not pointing fingers here, but I think it's pretty clear where the problem lies.
Friday 27th March 2015 13:42 GMT The Crow From Below
"Amazon.co.uk -> Most will not ship to europe, when they do it's by royal mail and that takes 5 - 6 weeks if it ever gets here."
I ordered from Amazon.co.uk to Danmark, it took 3 days for the package to arrive, I have heard the same experience from friends over the water in Germany as well. The problem in this case is most likely France, either at the customs end or at the delivery end (or just the same old story of making life difficult for anyone dealing with the English). Or it could be that the specific thing you ordered was out of stock and they had to wait...but in terms of availability and time to arrive from the UK once shipped I can't fault Amazon.
Friday 27th March 2015 13:23 GMT Michael Habel
Why I don't buy from over seas (When I can avoid it!)
1) The long delays in waiting for my Package to arrive form *cough* China *cough*
2) The possible hidden charges, or levies; To be imposed at the Customs Office. That One might fail to account for when you hit the "Ship It!" Button.
3) Method of Payments, not everybody does PayPal. I gather the new IBAN System that just came into effect this Year should make Intra-European Transfers a bit simpler. I just tend to stick with either PayPal, or Amazon where I can though.
4) Did I mention the extended (As in FOREVER!) shipping?!
Friday 27th March 2015 13:32 GMT Emj
EU VAT for digital services for example used to be worked out on the country of the seller - now it is on the country of the buyer. It is rules like this which each add to make life that bit more difficult for cross-border selling especially when using bespoke or in-house ecommerce packages.
The EU want to promote trade but don't try to make it simple. For small sellers, it is tough anyway. The EU should help people sell by promoting simplicity.
Friday 27th March 2015 13:32 GMT breakfast
Friday 27th March 2015 14:31 GMT Anonymous Coward
Curate's egg - good in parts
I've ordered winter tyres for my car from Germany, and even with extra postage in comparison with UK suppliers they arrived a lot cheaper than the equivalent here. Ditto a weather station I was after. A Dutch company shipped it to me a lot cheaper than UK suppliers, and yes, VAT was paid on both. The weather station arrived with a faulty sensor. A replacement was shipped without quibble and straight away. English was spoke in both cases, the Dutch supplier obviously keen to dust off his language skills.
I would have tried to get a laptop I was after from Germany, only there is no chance of getting a UK keyboard, presumably because the manufacturer or distie restricts the market. It would have mean not having to pay the UK MS tax, because the same model was available with FreeDOS, when my intention was o run Linux on it, and it was a lot cheaper, even with shipping.
I suspect a lot of sellers and buyers invent rules they think may be in place that make cross-border sales, but actually it usually works quite well.
Friday 27th March 2015 16:27 GMT Stork
We are buying a lot of stuff from Amazon for our business. and usually comparing .co.uk and .de.
This is because the local (Portuguese) market is eyewatering expensive for a lot of things, and because we do not have to pay the VAT on border crossing stuff.
1) Often, only Amazon proper ships to .pt, marketplace often not.
2) Shipping costs are often decisive.
3) shipping often about a week, but if you live here you should not get too stressed about that anyway :-)
Friday 27th March 2015 19:11 GMT Anonymous Coward
My nephew and his family live in Spain. Anything sent to them has to be signed for otherwise it is likely to go awol. The only way they can order from Amazon.uk is to get a relative to buy it - and then hold onto it until there is someone travelling to/from Spain.
Their daughter's Government child trust thing matures next month when she is 21. The large insurance company's payments department are apparently confounded by the fact that she now lives in Spain, She has had to make a detour on a visit to London to sign the paperwork with the company's agent for the claim. However they are still scratching their heads over how to pay her - as she doesn't have a bank account in Britain to which they can transfer the money. Every suggestion receives a "we can't do that" response.
Friday 27th March 2015 19:24 GMT Anonymous Coward
Buying things from Germany is sometimes surprisingly cheap and quick. However if the goods are faulty then there is often a language problem and a large cost to ship them back to get a refund.
China is actually reliable and reasonably fast - although I only buy very cheap items as I'm unsure about when HMRC starts to charge duties. Some Chinese suppliers seem to have warehouses in the UK fronted by several sellers' names. These charge a higher price - but they do not have any provision for returning faulty items. At best they will give a full refund - otherwise you have a Carch-22 loss.
In my experience Amazon.uk have been unconcerned about Marketplace Partners hiding the fact that items will come from the USA with all the Customs liabilities.
Friday 27th March 2015 20:59 GMT Nelbert Noggins
My biggest barrier to buying from anywhere online is the "you must register" just to find out the shipping costs. At that point, unless there are no alternate suppliers it's a case of sale lost. You do not need me to register or my full personal details just to calculate shipping costs, especially when shipping from UK to UK
In terms of buying from Europe when the price is right I do. Usually tech/electronic items although I still haven't worked out how the prices can differ so much. I bought 2 mobiles from Amazon de which saved £50 each including delivery and both ended up shipping from the UK distribution centre the same day, but was euro stock with euro power plugs inside.
I found the Netherlands usually much more expensive overall on most items, which is a shame because they seem to stock good, but not mainstream media streamers like they're candy.
France often has cheaper lego than Germany and the UK and the last items I bought for my son for his railway were both simple to find and cheaper from Germany, which isn't surprising as they were made by a Germany company.
As for payment, euro, dollar and global currency cards resolve any gouging on currency exchange.
The only items I've had trouble buying outside the UK have always been a result of manufacturer restrictions on supply outside the country of sale or the market place seller on Amazon not offering the required destination. With fulfilled by Amazon the destinations are grouped into tiers and they didn't ship enough to the higher priced tiers to make it worth their while paying Amazon to ship to those countries.
The most surprising purchase I had through Amazon was buying from Amazon UK and still getting free delivery to the Netherlands and it turning up in a few days.
As for her comments about broadcaster and media rights providers.... well Sky make it obvious why.... it's plain and simple price gouging which goes all the way up the chain to the media rights holders. Sky operate in multiple European countries and charge different rates for packages. After Sky lost in court with the cross border sales, Sky UK were already in the process of fixing it by moving to a satellite with directional spot beams only covering the UK to prevent non-uk based subscribers from catching the signals they previously broadcast in a footprint covering a huge chunk of western Europe. There needed to be a new satellite to increase capacity, but by choosing to switch to directional spot beams (which I expect cost more) than the wider fixed footprint transmitters they fixed their cross-border sales issue by making it impossible to receive the signal.
Somehow I can't see her chasing the broadcasters and media companies and ultimately they have alternative ways to prevent cross-border sales, both globally and in Europe. The risk of losing so much money will mean they will find a way to keep that in place.
Saturday 28th March 2015 07:47 GMT jonathanb
Saturday 28th March 2015 09:54 GMT Nelbert Noggins
I hope they succeed, but lets be realistic... that means going after some large well established cash cows, who people have already tried to break and with the amount of money involved they will fight and probably already have their backup plans in place to ensure the current cash cow status quo...
the movie studios, the sports leagues, the music companies, the list goes on and on. Also better add the BBC and BBC worldwide to the list as they operate restricted licenses on their own content for their own financial gain, it's not just Sky.
The BBC licensing of the Hitch-Hikers Radio Plays to Audible was a joke. In the UK it was only possible to get series 3 to 5, while in the US the entire series was available.
Saturday 28th March 2015 11:34 GMT Richard_L
Surprised that no one's mentioned it yet but there's also the issue of product localisation.
OK, so even though product manuals and safety information sheets are famous for being in written in at least 15 different languages, you've got also consider the following issues:
With electricals, you're going to end up opening the box to find the wrong plug on the end of a mains cable, or worse, a whole charger with the wrong plug moulded onto it. So you've then got the expense of a new cable, adapter or charger to add to the total cost of the appliance.
And then, when you finally plug it in you can stand back and admire your shiny new machine with its fascia and buttons all inscribed with a language you don't speak.
And should it break under warranty, you've to ungodly shipping costs if you have to send it back to the retailer...
Saturday 28th March 2015 14:18 GMT jonathanb
Re: Product localisation?
Sure, but there are people in this country who would prefer to have everything inscribed in a language other than English, because that's the language they speak; and there are loads of people in Spain who would prefer to have their product inscribed in English rather than Spanish.
Saturday 28th March 2015 18:16 GMT Graham 25
Because when I order something, I'd like to know that if there is a problem, then shipping it back isn;t a problem.
Quite apart from the concept of buying from a local based organisation (even if a multinational) and keeping local folks in jobs -I bought a Videocamera about 10-12 years ago, when DV tape cameras were the best available, but when it had a problem it cost me a small fortune in shipping and insurance to get it there for repair.
Sunday 29th March 2015 20:47 GMT Bluenose
Yet another waste of a politicians time
Doh, why don't people buy from shops in other countries.................. because 99 times out of 100 the ordinary person in the street has no clue as to the name of the shop they need to go to. If I want to buy electronics I go to Maplin, ebay or Amazon. Why would I go and search around the internet to find the name of a couple of shops in Germany, France or any other country?
Perhaps if politicians had a clue about real people they would realise that people buy from those companies they know and mainly trust. For example how many people buy from John Lewis because of its well established reputation? People don't buy from foreign shops because in the main they have no idea who they are and if you don't know who they are how do you type in their URL?
The other side of the coin of course is that for international trade most of the business will generally flow more and more towards those companies that have international reputations and those will be companies like Amazon, Baidoo and others who use their massive purchasing power to undercut national web suppliers.