Ebay collects 750,000 signatures to end unfair online price-fixing

18th September, 2009 10:29 am

By Mary Honeyball MEP

I wanted to tell Labour supporters about a campaign I am promoting to ensure that goods bought online are freely available at a fair price. Currently, European rules do not adequately support online retailers & customers.

I am very pleased to be part of E-Bay’s drive for greater fairness in online selling. Having gained three quarters of a million signatures on their petition, E-Bay held a breakfast meeting with me as the main speaker yesterday morning to launch their campaign to reduce over-pricing by designer branded goods.

Yesterday’s meeting, organised by myself and E-Bay, looked at getting fairer prices for everyone buying the everyday products they need. The way things stand at present just makes everyone poorer. It hurts consumers. It costs jobs and damages businesses.

High prices harm everyone. This is not just about expensive handbags and luxury products – it is about things bought by millions of consumers all over Europe. It’s also about new goods, not just second-hand – parents getting sporting goods, shoes, school bags and other equipment for their children and general consumers buying cycling helmets, ski equipment, mp3 players, computers and household appliances like washing machines. A particular problem is prams and baby goods where suppliers make on-line selling practically impossible by refusing to let online sellers have acces to their products.

Research has shown that prices of new products in online stores are on average 17% lower than those in high street stores. The average price saving on Telecoms for French, British and German customers is 48%. The average saving on clothes and accessories is 31%. For computers it is 32%. For books it is 25%. Figures like these cannot be overlooked.

I’m not going to name and shame individual companies who seek to keep their goods artificially high and prevent on-line selling. However, I assure you that it reads like a directory of some the biggest names that we are all familiar with.

The internet redistributes power to the consumer in ways we could not have envisaged only a few years ago. The presentation of this unprecedented petition should be a wake up call to the Commission to think again about its review of these regulations. They are ten years out of date now and need to be made fit for the 21st century. The manufacturers and traditional retailers will be lobbying the Commission work hard to protect themselves from having to compete with on fair basis with internet businesses. Those of us who want a fair deal for consumers must do the same, and we have made a racing start.

It was very good to see three sellers at the breakfast yesterday. Thank you for speaking up and for your bravery. I know it isn’t easy or without risk to your business. Many on-line sellers are small and medium sized enterprises who deserve our support. On-line selling also allows women to run businesses from home and thereby spend more time with their families.

One of the reasons, albeit not the most important one, I am so keen to support E-Bay and on-line selling is my own personal experience. E-Bay saved my bacon when I needed a fancy hat for a wedding. Not being prepared to spend lots of money on an item I would more than likely only wear once, I turned to E-Bay where I found the very thing which was subsequently delivered the next day. In fact, I liked the hat so much that it’s now had more than the expected one outing.

The E-Bay campaign has only just begun. We now need to lobby the European Commission to change the rules. I will continue to blog as the story unfolds.

Join the 750,000 – sign the petition here.

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