By Daniel Hunter
The British Retail Consortium's (BRC's) Multichannel Retailing conference taking place today (Thursday) is a timely reminder to the Government to keep the pressure on Europe over the creation of a true single European online retail market.
The annual event, which attracts more than 150 key figures from UK retailing, will consider how the sector's responding to the latest developments in technology and embracing changes in consumer habits.
Prime Minister David Cameron and other EU leaders have spoken up about the economic importance of a digital single market but actual progress in Europe has been slow. The BRC wants the Government to maintain the pressure on the EU to overcome problems such as different consumer rights rules and incompatible payment systems.
The UK is a world leader in online retailing with the highest online spend per person in Europe. Establishing a single market for online trading would give British businesses easier access to millions more consumers across Europe. European Commission figures estimate that establishing a true digital single market could raise the EU's income overall by four per cent.
British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said: "Retail is something the UK excels at and we're already global leaders online. The Government has rightly identified increasing exports as part of its strategy for growth. Helping British retailers reach new and growing markets overseas is an obvious next step and an effective single digital market is key to doing that.
"There is a multitude of hurdles which any company wanting to trade in Europe must overcome, not least 27 different sets of consumer rights legislation, tax and legal regimes. The EU machinery is making gradual progress on some key areas but there needs to be a greater sense of urgency.
"Opening up Europe's digital market would be a win-win situation. Consumers across the continent would benefit from the extra competition, which we know encourages innovation and helps bring prices down. The UK's world-leading retailers would be well-placed to achieve even greater success. We need to see pressure from retailers and the UK Government resulting in a faster rate of change in Brussels."
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