EU-rapporten i kortare version:

 

A. whereas the wind of protectionism blowing across Europe is alarming,
B.  whereas the real economy must be put back at the centre of the political agenda to unleash the full potential of the Single Market,

C.  whereas the retail market is a crucial component of our commitment to re-launch the Single Market,

 A vision for more competitiveness, growth and jobs

 

1.   Stresses that the retail sector is a driver for growth, competitiveness and jobs in Europe and plays a key role in reaching the goals of the EU2020 strategy;

2.   Highlights that retailers are offering diverse and modern ways of selling goods and services and contribute to consumer choice and flexible employment opportunities, in particular for youth;

3.   Calls on the EU institutions to give the highest political prominence to the retail sector as a pillar of the Single Market Act;

4.   Calls on the Commission to reinforce cross-policy coordination and to take a holistic, long-term approach to the retail sector;

5.   Regrets that serious obstacles still hinder the retail sector from achieving its full potential; stresses the need to address them without delay;

6.   Underlines that retailers and suppliers have a shared responsibility in achieving a more efficient and fairer retail market;

7.   Considers that the primary focus must be on the effective enforcement of Treaty principles, existing internal market rules and instruments, and self-regulation, rather than taking a regulatory approach;

 

Removing obstacles to free movement of goods and services

 

8. Is concerned that restrictive national rules, divergent interpretations and inadequate enforcement impede free movement of goods and services in the EU; stresses that requirements for extra tests and registrations, non-recognition of certificates and standards, territorial supply constraints and similar measures create extra costs for consumers and retailers, in particular SMEs;

9.   Recognises the need to further analyse price differences in the EU, in order to ensure price transparency for consumers, without prejudice to national fiscal and labour market rules;

10. Urges Member States to fully and correctly implement the internal market – notably the Goods Package, the Services Directive, the Late Payments Directive, the E-Commerce Directive and the Small Business Act – as well as to remove overlaps and reduce administrative burdens;

11. Asks the Commission to monitor Member States more closely in order to reduce transposition deficit and ensure effective mutual recognition of goods and services; asks the Commission to ensure also simplification of existing rules;

12. Encourages business federations, supported by the Commission, to provide more information, training and legal advice to stakeholders on their rights and the instruments at their disposal, such as SOLVIT;

13. Stresses that a fragmented payment system is an obstacle to trade; calls on the Commission to improve SEPA in order to develop a basic payment service available for all cards, increasing transparency in transaction costs and reducing interchange fees, and to ensure faster bank transfers within the EU;

 

Opening up market access for business and consumers

 

14. Notes the concern expressed by parts of civil society and SMEs about the increase in shopping centres and the decrease in local shops and markets in remote areas and town centres; stresses that retail planning should not sacrifice consumers’ freedom of choice;

15. Considers that accessibility must be addressed in full respect of subsidiarity; underlines, however, that local planning must not circumvent the Services Directive and create hidden barriers to the establishment of retailers;

16. Emphasises that e-commerce is an important complement to offline trade and that appropriate action must be taken to develop its full potential; calls on the Commission to include in the upcoming Communication on e-commerce measures to enhance confidence, in particular by simplifying registration of domains across borders, improving secure online payment and facilitating cross-border debt recovery;

17. Regrets the significant number of obstacles to retailers’ freedom of establishment across the EU; is concerned, in particular, about certain national trade and tax laws, which have a de facto discriminatory effect against foreign retailers;

18. Calls on the Commission to act more firmly in regard to any Member State infringing internal market principles, to speed up infringement procedures through a ‘fast-track approach’ and to report to the European Parliament every six months on resolved cases in the field of retail;

 

Addressing contractual and commercial practices in business-to-business relations

 

19. Reaffirms that free competition and freedom of contract are key to a well-functioning retail market;

20. Recognises that companies have different market power, that they need to act in an economically sound way and that the EU needs economic champions to compete globally;

21. Takes note, however, of a widespread concern about market dominance by bigger actors, who are perceived to impose unfair terms on small suppliers and traders, for instance through mechanisms of selective distribution, restrictive practices, price control and delisting without notice, thereby distorting competition; underlines that the entire retail supply chain is affected by such practices; 

22. Emphasises that the development of private labels should not affect consumer choice or the possibility for SMEs to expand;

23. Considers that ‘parasitic copying’, which can result from the retailer’s dual role as the customer and competitor of brand manufacturers, is an unacceptable practice that should be addressed without delay;

24. Recognises the need for more balanced relations and transparency in the retail supply chain; stresses the need to move from confrontation to dialogue based on facts, in order to restore confidence and enable fairer negotiations and a level playing field for all;

25. Urges the Commission and Member States to fully and coherently enforce competition law, and where applicable at national level, unfair competition and anti-trust law;

26. Supports the excellent work underway by the Experts Platform on B2B contractual practices of the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain, in particular to define, list and assess what constitutes a manifestly unfair commercial practice, based on data and concrete examples;

27. Recognises the need expressed by some stakeholders to take a broader and horizontal approach, extending the scope beyond the agro-food industry; asks the Commission and the business federations, building on the ongoing work in the Experts Platform, to explore the possibilities for creating a new, open-ended forum focusing on retail as a whole;

28. Strongly supports, at the same time, the intense work underway by retailers’ and suppliers’ federations to set up informal dialogue and regular consultation mechanisms in respect of competition law; welcomes their voluntary initiative to agree on a declaration on common principles of good trading practices across the retail supply chain;

29. Notes with concern that existing legal instruments are not being fully used, especially by SMEs, to uphold their rights, due to economic dependency and concern of losing business; asks the Commission, Member States and business federations to identify ways to restore confidence and facilitate access to judicial systems, including the possibility of anonymous complaints;

30. Asks the Commission to publish, by the end of 2011, a Communication mapping national laws and tools in place to deal with commercial practices and contractual relations, and to assess thoroughly if these rules are being properly enforced and if further action is needed;

31. Considers that, rather than proposing legislation, alternative and informal dispute resolution and redress mechanisms should be explored and their effectiveness evaluated;

32. Asks the Commission and operators in the retail supply chain to report to Parliament on a yearly basis on progress made in the existing platforms and informal dialogue mechanisms; suggests that the results should be debated at a yearly Retail Market Roundtable organised by its Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection;

 

Enhancing efficiency and sustainable consumption − innovative practices

 

33. Welcomes the fact that retailers and suppliers have been at the forefront for green responsibility and supports the commitments they have taken towards sustainable consumption;

34. Emphasises that retailers and suppliers are drivers of research and development; encourages them to invest in new technologies to further improve logistics and transport, energy efficiency, waste disposal and packaging, and to exchange best practices;

35. Calls on stakeholders to take further initiatives to combat food waste;

36. Welcomes the joint agreement by EuroCommerce and UNI-Europa, which illustrates that social dialogue is working well in commerce; recognises that more needs to be done to increase consumer information on the social responsibility of retailers, to match investments in new technologies with human capital, and to combat informal economy;

 

Way ahead

 

37. Asks the Commission to prepare a comprehensive European Action Plan for Retail in order to set out a strategy, building on achievements and addressing outstanding issues, with sector-specific recommendations;

38. Encourages retailers and suppliers to actively engage in an open, constructive and continued dialogue to reach pragmatic solutions; invites EU institutions to actively support this process;

39. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.
 
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt i FoodMonitor 17.03.2011

 

 

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