The European Union (EU) is set to introduce new rules that will crack down on e-commerce companies that conduct business across member states but force customers to make purchases on country-specific Web sites.
EU consumer chief Meglena Kuneva is planning to clamp down on companies that impose geographical restrictions on shoppers.
In a speech given in London, Kuneva said she will propose new legislation this autumn for creating an EU-wide set of rules governing online and in-store transactions. The "single, simple set of core rights and obligations" will make it easier to buy and sell across borders and bring down costs for shoppers.
A survey of 26,000 consumers and 7200 businesses - covering the 27 EU-countries and Norway - found that the number EU consumers that have bought at least one item over the Internet has increased from 27% in 2006 to 33% in 2008.
But cross border e-commerce activity has stayed flat - rising from six per cent in 2006 to seven per cent this year. Only 17 % of e-commerce revenue for those who sell cross-border stems from this market, compared to 16% in 2006.
According to the EU survey, 37% of respondents said they would be more confident making online purchases from sellers located in their own country - down eight per cent since 2006. But 57% are equally or even more confident making purchases online from sellers in another EU country - up eight per cent on 2006.
"Consumers and retailers are beginning to embrace e-commerce at national level but internal market barriers still persist online," says Kuneva in a statement. "The potential of the online internal market to deliver greater choice and lower price to consumers and new markets for retailers is considerable. We need to redouble our efforts to tackle the remaining borders."