Companies in the commerce sector are an integral part of the everyday life of EU citizens, business life and the European economy. Retail and wholesale trade employ up to 26 million Europeans, which means that one in seven people of working age works in the commerce sector. One in three European companies operates in the retail and wholesale trade, which accounts for 10% of the entire EU’s gross domestic product.
The Finnish Commerce Federation, together with other Nordic commerce sector organisations, has set its objectives for the upcoming parliamentary term. The objectives place particular emphasis on the need for equal regulation and enforcement within the EU for businesses operating inside and outside the internal markets – both in brick-and-mortar and digital shops.
“In decision-making pertaining to companies and internal markets, it is very important to ensure fair competitive conditions and market conformity, as well as to recognise the varying situations of different trade sectors and companies. Special attention must be paid to reducing the administrative burden,” says Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.
Consumers benefit from fair commerce rules
The requirements of fair competitive conditions are emphasised in the monitoring of online marketplaces and online stores located in third countries, the consistency of consumer protection in different Member States, the treatment of different sales channels and product groups, as well as in corporate responsibility and environmental regulation, which should guide investments in a market-based and technology-neutral manner.
“Fair rules of commerce also guarantee safe and requirement-compliant products for consumers, regardless of the sales channel,” Kiviniemi points out.
In retail payments, fairness means being able to rein in the costs for European shops and consumers. More competition is needed for digital retail payments, as the card payment market in Europe is concentrated in the hands of two international card companies. That is why the development of the digital euro must be purposefully promoted.
Ensuring conditions for sustainable trade
Companies in the commerce sector offer products and services to consumers and B2B customers through multiple channels, also building bridges between the manufacturing industry and 450 million European consumers. The European Union, thus, plays an important role in guiding sustainable consumption.
The circular economy requires new, inter-company ecosystems to function. Companies, in turn, need guidance on how different operators can cooperate in the circular economy within the framework of competition legislation. For example, the maintenance and repair of goods should be made both a profitable option for shops and an interesting option for consumers alongside purchasing something new.
“Both competition and consumer protection legislation need to be clarified, so that regulation supports and enables businesses to adapt to the circular economy’s economic model,” Kiviniemi says.
Commerce sector companies are building the future
Commerce sector companies support millions of jobs in their supply chains – from small suppliers to large international companies. More than 99 per cent of the 5 million retail and wholesale trade businesses in Europe are SMEs. Commerce sector SMEs would benefit from research, development and innovation funding being allocated to them, as they play an important role in the creation of innovations and new jobs.
“RDI funding would give many digital commerce companies a much-needed boost to the international market. Many specialty goods trade and B2B trade companies would also improve their competitiveness with RDI funding, for example, by developing and investing in digital service solutions, data analytics, circular economy operating models, and fast and climate-resilient logistics solutions,” Kiviniemi points out.
Simplifying taxation would also allow commerce sector companies to lower their costs and increase their economic activity. One example of inefficiency is the current tax-free procedure, in which travellers apply for a refund of the VAT included in their purchases only as they leave the country.
“Companies, society and tourists would benefit from a model where the tourist could buy the product from the shop without VAT already at the time of purchase and save the VAT amount while still in the country,” Kiviniemi says.
The Finnish Commerce Federation is also concerned about the level of future competence and the availability of experts. The EU has the opportunity to support the competence of commerce sector companies through various programmes. Their priorities should take into account the transformation of the commerce sector and new skills needs, for example, in terms of digitalisation, the green transition and internationalisation.
For further information, please contact:
Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)50 511 3189, mari.kiviniemi(at)kauppa.fi
Ilari Kallio, Chief Policy Adviser, EU Affairs, corporate legislation, tel. +358 (0)40 139 6912, ilari.kallio(at)kauppa.fi
Read more about the Finnish Commerce Federation’s objectives for the parliamentary term 2024–2029 > (In Finnish)
Europe needs healthy and sustainably competitive commerce > (Brochure In Finnish)