The time is right for a European Retail Action Plan, but not for regulatory measures on trading practices
The Commission has published today a package consisting of a communication on a European Retail Action Plan and a Green Paper on unfair trading practices in the supply chains for food and non-food products.
We welcome the Retail Action Plan...
We expect that an effective and well-executed action plan will help to address the barriers to growth and development that retailers face. Many of these barriers are regulatory, and many are at national level, resulting in unnecessary restrictions to trade. As a result, retail cannot fulfil its full potential to create jobs, wealth, and consumer choice.
EuroCommerce Director-General, Christian Verschueren said, “We commend the European Commission for having recognised the role that retail can play as being part of the solution in these times of crisis. Retail can be an engine of growth and job creation, but for the engine to work, it needs a level playing field where trade can flow smoothly and predictably, where standards of consumer information and protection are harmonised and properly implemented everywhere, where unnecessary and distorting restrictions, taxes, and territorial supply constraints are lifted, where new forms and channels of commerce can flourish on a level-playing field, and where entrepreneurship and innovation are made easy and encouraged. This plan is definitely a step in the righty direction.”
Like any plan, the success of the Retail Action Plan will lie in its execution. We trust that the Commission will dedicate all its energy to make sure tangible results are achieved. The Retail Action Plan should create a single market for retail, by addressing barriers such as obstacles to establishment, promoting the development of e-commerce and innovation, and reducing the skills gap. “Many barriers happen at national level because of discrimination against certain forms of commerce, certain sizes of stores, or because of arbitrary taxes, or because of different and divergent interpretations of EU law. We trust that the Commission will make work of its zero-tolerance policy on the single market, and use of its moral authority towards Member States to ensure a true single market, 20 years after its supposed completion”, Verschueren added.
We also welcome the proposal for a Retail Competitiveness Group, which will ensure the process has the impetus and the necessary structure to achieve tangible results that will help our sector deliver better service, better products and better prices for consumers, and for the European economy as a whole.
...but we will be vigilant and ask for a fact-based debate on the Green Paper on trading practices.
The Green Paper on business-to-business unfair trading practices in the food and non-food supply chain, however, is disappointing. With a title, some language, and an angle of approach that focuses on unfair trading practices, the consultation creates a stigma on retail. Overlooking the benefits that retail brings to consumers in terms of prices, choice and service through its constant emphasis on efficiency; it invites regulation on the sector as an option. Experience shows that regulation has not been very effective in managing trading relationships; it stiffens trade, entrepreneurship, and competition; it stifles innovation and job creation; it doesn’t solve the issue it was supposed to address.
Rather than focusing on the negative, EuroCommerce, together with other players in the food supply chain, has chosen to develop a set of good practices and a voluntary framework to implement those. In terms of promoting fairness in business-to-business relationships, this collaborative, voluntary initiative will deliver results faster and more effectively. We ask the Commission to give this self-regulatory initiative a fair chance to succeed and to consider it as a better option in these times of economic recession, low consumer confidence and reduced government budgets. EuroCommerce will present this initiative as the main thrust of its response to the consultation.
We will use the Green Paper as an opportunity to set the record straight on the value that retail brings to its suppliers, its consumers, and the European economy as a whole. We ask and trust that the European Institutions and stakeholders will opt for an informed, fact-based, approach in this important debate.
For further information, please contact:
Director of Advocacy & Communications
Tel: +32 2 737 05 99
EuroCommerce and the commerce sector
EuroCommerce represents the retail, wholesale and international trade sectors in Europe. Its membership includes commerce federations and companies in 31 European countries.
Commerce plays a unique role in the European economy, acting as the link between manufacturers and the nearly 500 million consumers across Europe over a billion times a day. It is a dynamic and labour-intensive sector, generating 11% of the EU’s GDP. One company out of three in Europe is active in the commerce sector. Over 99% of the 6 million companies in commerce are small and medium-sized enterprises. It also includes some of Europe’s most successful companies. The sector is a major source of employment creation: 33 million Europeans work in commerce, which is one of the few remaining job-creating activities in Europe. It also supports millions of dependent jobs throughout the supply chain from small local suppliers to international businesses.
Conor Mescall | EuroCommerce
Advocacy & Communications Assistant
T:+32 2 737 05 89 - www.eurocommerce.be