Some time ago now, the European Commission launched an initiative to improve transparency and regulate the cross-border parcel delivery sector as part of its aspiration to create a real Digital Single Market. Clearly, no pan-European online market can exist without a functioning delivery system covering the entirety of the Union. A draft regulation on this subject was first published on 25 May 2016 (COM (2016) 285). Since then, the proposal has been debated both on a national as well as a European level and now, the European Parliament has agreed on an amended text of the regulation.
The initiative goes back to a communication issued by the Commission in 2012. It emphasized the need to launch a public consultation to identify potential hurdles related to the delivery of goods purchased online, be it by consumers or companies (SMEs in particular). The Commission summarized the responses, and in 2013 issued a roadmap by way of yet another communication. In particular, the fragmented state of the cross-border parcel delivery market was highlighted as an obstacle to EU endeavours to create one single market within the Union.
The proposal for a regulation on cross-border parcel delivery services was then published on 25 May 2016. The Commission’s main objectives were to
- Improve the market’s efficiency through effective regulatory oversight and increased competition, and
- Improve the price transparency to reduce unjustified tariff differences as well as the prices overall.
The proposal gave rise to quite some discussion. Eventually, in mid-December 2017 the European institutions reached a then still informal understanding on the regulation’s final wording. This Tuesday, 13 March 2018, the Parliament took a formal vote on the agreed text. A large majority of 604 parliamentarians voted in favour of the regulation (report).
The coming regulation features a series of mandatory information that every parcel delivery service provider will have to submit to the national regulatory authority of its country of establishment. The regulation also establishes a mechanism by which the national regulatory authority will be able to assess the affordability of cross-border tariffs yearly. Moreover, the law will include measures to ensure a transparent and non-discriminatory cross-border access to such services.
What needs to be noted also is the fact that the regulation will leave some room for manoeuver for the Member States as regards transposition. For example, each Member State may decide which type of “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties shall be enacted.
This piece of legislation will inevitably have a significant impact on e-commerce. Although, in essence it is regulating the environment in the “real” world, European e-commerce rests on functioning cross-border delivery facilities. Therefore, it is fair to say that this regulation marks another milestone in the Commission’s ambitious Digital Single Market strategy.
The regulation still requires formal approval by the Council, which however can almost be taken for granted, considering the compromise already reached in December 2017. The approval is a matter of weeks away rather than months. The regulation will then be officially published in the Official Journal of the European Union.