On 22 December 2015, the European Commission announced its next steps towards completing the single market for cross-border parcel delivery. The Commission’s aim is to enhance price transparency and regulatory oversight of the parcel market over the coming year, thereby providing consumers and businesses with better access to digital goods and services across Europe.

Cross-border parcel delivery is considered to be one of the key drivers of e-commerce, and forms part of the Commission’s strategy on achieving a Digital Single Market (‘DSM’). The Commission believes that affordable and high-quality, cross-border delivery can build consumer trust in cross-border online sales, and can stimulate the growth of e-commerce. However, high prices and inefficient deliveries between Member States have deterred consumers and businesses from buying and selling online.

In May 2015, a public consultation revealed that consumers and retailers were discouraged from carrying out transactions involving cross-border parcel deliveries because of the high prices involved. Furthermore, a study on letter and parcel prices found that the cost of basic cross-border parcel deliveries was almost five times higher than identical deliveries carried out on the domestic market. The study also highlighted large differences between the cost of sending a parcel to one country, and the cost of carrying out the same operation in reverse.

The Commission has stated that such price variations do not make sense, and are “limiting e‑commerce, growth and jobs in the sector”. In order to tackle the problems associated with parcel deliveries and costs, the Commission has stated that it will be focussing on increasing transparency and competition through a series of targeted measures. These measures will be put forward in spring 2016. Although little is known about the detail of such measures at this time, the Commission has made it clear that it is not planning to introduce price caps or regulate pricing.