Shopping without borders – does Europe deliver?

by , Senior Advocate Consumer Rights 4 December 2012
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Internet shopping has opened up the opportunity to buy products from all over the world from the comfort of your home. Yet, could concerns about delivery services hold us back from a European shopping spree?

Man standing behind a transparent world map, pointing his finger at a shopping trolley in the middle of the map

I’m a huge fan of online shopping, buying everything from bike lights to shoes over the internet. Having had very few problems over the years, I’ve become pretty relaxed about whether the trader is based in the UK or abroad.

It turns out that this makes me a fairly atypical European consumer. According to research by the European Commission, only one in 10 Europeans buy online from sellers based abroad.

Long delivery times, high costs and concerns about parcels not being delivered or getting damaged are the top deterrents to buying online from another European country, according to the research. In a recent Which? survey, we found that more than six in 10 people experienced problems with online deliveries. It’s perhaps not so surprising that shoppers are extra wary about the prospect of having to solve problems with a retailer in a different country.

Solving the delivery problem

In response to these real and perceived problems, the European Commission has launched a consultation to identify how parcel delivery across borders can be improved. The consultation aims to find solutions to problems like unreliable deliveries and high postage costs between European countries. We’ll be keeping an eye on what they come up with.

Do you look for information about where a trader is based before clicking ‘buy’? Do worries about delivery problems keep you from buying goods from traders in other countries?

4 comments

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rarrar

Main worry is language issues and not being able to understand the more important “small print”.
Do get a vague feeling especially from Ebay that delivery charges are lower with “EU to UK” rather than “UK to EU” sales.
My own experience from a few years ago was that my German business client could arrange courier collection for 50% of what the same courier wanted to charge us if we booked it.

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Sophie Gilbert

Actually I’ve never thought about buying from abroad purely because I thought that postage and packing would be too expensive. Having just checked on Amazon.fr (booh, Amazon, booh, tax dodgers that you are!), I find that P&P isn’t as expensive as I thought. Is delivery from abroad worse than from anywhere in this country? But I agree from rarrar that ordering in some languages would worry me.

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brianac

I have no problem buying from abroad, it is something I did for a living and privately when working overseas. The cost of an item includes everything, not forgetting what happens if it goes wrong.
It does become a bit more of a buyer beware marketplace, but if you are confident in your research and willing to take a few hits along with the many gains then its the way to go. Postage from Europe is little more expensive than within UK, from China it is a lot cheaper. Packing charges are often lower.
The strangest one I saw was last week, something I wanted was cheapest when bought from Germany for an item discribed as from the one of the worlds leading manufacturers in England. I can’t find a supplier in UK!

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Dead Eye Dicky

This is a new twist and may not be appropriate.
I want to upgrade my Adobe Elements 7 software and the latest version is 11. I bought originally as a download and this was fine (taking about 4 hours download time) so I thought I could try it again. This time a Google search found it at 70 US dollars (about £48 – a decent saving) from US Amazon. I tried to purchase but was told that the offer was only available to buyers in the US.
Why is this? Is it to do with VAT, or is it some sort of condition that Adobe imposes to prevent europeans getting stuff at lower US prices. Is there some sort of illegal embargo here?
Has anyone got any ideas?

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