This Paper details how the Internet is empowering European consumers by providing them with access to a much greater choice of products and services at more competitive prices, resulting in cost savings and higher living standards. In addition, access to the Internet is providing Europe’s entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with an opportunity to penetrate established markets and open up new ones. Many pioneering manufacturers are taking advantage of the emerging new business model.
This paper also shows how the existing EU regulatory framework, and the bottlenecks it causes due to its association with 20th Century market dynamics, hinders the realisation of the full potential of this new 21st Century Market.
EU rules currently give companies and national courts too little guidance on what type of action goes too far in restricting online distribution of products. As a result, those few manufacturers entrenched in 20th Century business models – namely those who capitalize on market segmentation – are being provided with an opportunity to undermine access to the 21st Century Market, to the detriment of consumers and SMEs.
This situation is compounded by a few manufacturers launching public attacks that blame the Internet as the root cause of the counterfeit goods problem. These false and misleading claims imply that unduly restricting consumer choice and Internet access is necessary to fight counterfeiting, when in fact the main result is to undermine consumer access to the 21st Century Market and preserve outdated 20th Century distribution models.
This Paper therefore calls on European Union leaders and policy-makers to look into the current regulatory framework on distribution agreements, trade mark rules, services and consumer provisions, to ensure they are fully up to date with the 21st Century Market and promote consumer benefits as well as empower SMEs.