At a time when consumers are making
more and more of their purchases online, cross-border online
spending in Europe is stagnant.

The issue has already caught the
attention of the European Commission, which has described the
e-commerce market in the EU as “fragmented and unequal”
(see Merging markets and blurring borders). A
range of private and public initiatives are now being launched to
address the problem.

The most recent is from UK-based
Barclaycard, which has created a platform called SmartPay. The
service can identify the location of a consumer trying to make an
online transaction and provides them with their own domestic
payment options rather than the merchant’s.

Barclaycard hopes the service will
reduce the number of failed online transactions and help drive
greater volumes for its merchants.

Private enterprise is certainly one
solution to the problem of knitting together the uneven patchwork
of Europe’s e-commerce market. More fundamentally, trust needs to
be established among consumers so that they can transact online and
across borders with confidence. This is more of a regulatory
imperative, and there are signs the European Commission and
Europe’s Internal Market Committee are starting to work towards
this end.

Proposals to condense consumer rights directives into a single
set of EU-wide rules, simplifying VAT reporting for merchants and
the establishment of an EU trust mark on websites are well
intentioned and should be pushed through as soon as they can.
Fortunately, innovative payments players like Barclaycard are able
to plug the gaps until they do.

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