Pierre Perrin-Monlouis Dernière mise à jour: 20 octobre 2021
eBay’s Call for Action on access to on-line markets
Brussels, 24 June 2008
Honourable Members of Parliament, fellow Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Can I begin by thanking Doug McCallum and his colleagues in eBay for organising this important event here in the European Parliament tonight.
The issues I want to briefly touch on this evening are important to eBay, they are important to the European Parliament, and they are important to the Commission. And most of all, they are important to the consumer. What we’re talking about here is how to expand cross border e-commerce. Or rather, what are we going to do to tackle the various barriers to the expansion of this trade? And one of the very worst barriers, ladies and gentlemen, is the scourge of counterfeiting.
First let me say a few words on e-commerce:
I very much welcome eBay’s initiative on assessing the barriers to the expansion of cross border e-commerce. You have rightly understood that it’s about awareness raising and it’s about information gathering; and that’s what you are successfully doing for policy makers here today.
The importance of e-commerce for the provision of goods and services will continue to drive growth and innovation. We must all work to ensure that this potential is realised. Our regulatory and non regulatory response should be to facilitate this. All parties have a role to play in addressing the challenges that the internet brings so that consumers can avail of the widest range of quality products at competitive prices.
First of all can I say that I don’t see the need for us to burden ourselves with more rules and regulations. We already have the E-commerce Directive. It is a good instrument, it is a robust instrument, and it doesn’t need to be revised at this time.
I also agree with you in eBay that so-called “exclusive distribution agreements” are of central concern to the Internal Market. And we are not just talking about the luxury goods market: rather this is a problem that is endemic to most distribution contracts for branded products in the EU. It is the main reason consumers are blocked from buying on-line products from other Member States. This is not what it was meant to be about. So let us look at all the factors involved, and then endeavour to do something about this unacceptable situation.
That does not mean I contest the possibility of exclusive distribution contracts. In fact, exclusive distribution contracts can in some instances encourage innovation and quality. What it does mean however, is that such agreements must not be systematically kept national for purely protectionist reasons. I will not accept the wilful fragmentation of the Internal Market in such a manner. Effective monitoring can help ensure this is not the case.
What then about counterfeiting? I suppose it was to be expected that the burgeoning online market place was always going to attract fraudsters. Criminals who lure naïve consumers into buying counterfeit and pirated goods. Crooks who take advantage of the internet to cross normal borders through online channels, and who know they can get away with it. Well it’s time that they stopped getting away with it. We’ve got to hit them where it hurts with fines, with penalties, and using all the legal tools at our disposal. This is clearly in the interests of all concerned – whether they are consumers, legitimate businesses or brand owners.
Indeed now, perhaps more than at any other time over the last couple of years, we all need to work to build confidence in our single market. Because a single market where criminals go unchecked will not promote people’s confidence in the European Union.
At the recent hearing on counterfeiting and piracy that the Commission held jointly with the European Parliament, I suggested we should find a way forward in combating the use of the internet to increase counterfeiting and piracy. I would like to see industry take the lead in a drive to combat this phenomena.
Industry has the inherent knowledge to identify fake products and to unearth production and distribution networks. The brand owners and platforms should unite in the fight by developing ways and means, on the basis of voluntary agreements, for example.
I would like to see a stake holder forum which could develop a potential inter-industry agreement to lay down minimum common best practices and establish collaboration mechanisms between relevant stakeholders. The Commission stands ready to play a facilitator role in this work and will be inviting expressions of interest from all stakeholders.
I firmly believe that brand owners, online platforms and consumers have a common interest in jointly finding a common solution to the problems caused by the sale of counterfeit goods over the internet. We cannot underestimate the role that such voluntary agreements could play in the fight against counterfeiting and the promotion of online services. Let’s face it. Unless solutions are found, then the pressure for legislation at EU level is inevitably going to build up. There is a window of opportunity to show that the industry is willing and capable of stepping up to the mark and finding solutions.
In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, I would say that the internal market has now reached a new frontier, a cyber frontier, and it is up to each and every one of us to do our bit to allow the internal market to work as well in cyber space as it does here on solid ground. And a key element of this is getting it right on counterfeiting and piracy.