Policy brief

E-commerce in Europe: parcel delivery prices in a digital single market

The expansion of e-commerce, a substantial growth opportunity for Europe, is hampered by high cross-border parcel delivery prices. This paper analyse

Publishing date
25 May 2016

Highlights

In its Digital Single Market strategy, the European Commission has rightly noted the importance of reducing the price paid for basic cross-border parcel delivery by consumers and by small and medium size retail senders.

The payment flows for cross-border parcel delivery are strikingly similar to those for telecommunications. Comparisons with roaming can be instructive. As with roaming, it is clear that the links between wholesale payments between the national postal operators and retail prices need to be properly understood in order to craft good policy. Another useful lesson is that national postal regulatory authorities are unlikely to address cross-border problems because of limitations in their respective mandates and because they have no incentive to take measures to benefit residents of other countries.

There are also significant differences between roaming and parcel delivery. While high wholesale charges were a major driver of high retail prices for international mobile roaming, the wholesale payments for cross-border parcel delivery appear to be below cost. This implies that it is the ‘spread’ between retail price and the wholesale payment that is inflated, at least for small retail senders and for consumers.

Comprehensive statistics gathering, coordinated at European level, is indispensable.

About the authors

  • Scott Marcus

    J. Scott Marcus is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels-based economics think tank, and also works as an independent consultant dealing with policy and regulatory policy regarding electronic communications. His work is interdisciplinary and entails economics, political science / public administration, policy analysis, and engineering.

    From 2005 to 2015, he served as a Director for WIK-Consult GmbH (the consulting arm of the WIK, a German research institute in regulatory economics for network industries). From 2001 to 2005, he served as Senior Advisor for Internet Technology for the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as a peer to the Chief Economist and Chief Technologist. In 2004, the FCC seconded Mr. Marcus to the European Commission (to what was then DG INFSO) under a grant from the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Prior to working for the FCC, he was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Genuity, Inc. (GTE Internetworking), one of the world's largest backbone internet service providers.

    Mr. Marcus is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Communications and Media program at the Florence School of Regulation (FSR), a unit of the European University Institute (EUI). He is also a Fellow of GLOCOM (the Center for Global Communications, a research institute of the International University of Japan). He is a Senior Member of the IEEE; has served as co-editor for public policy and regulation for IEEE Communications Magazine; served on the Meetings and Conference Board of the IEEE Communications Society from 2001 through 2005; and was Vice Chair and then Acting Chair of IEEE CNOM. He served on the board of the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) from 2000 to 2002.

    Marcus is the author of numerous papers, a book on data network design. He either led or served as first author for numerous studies for the European Parliament, the European Commission, and national governments and regulatory authorities around the world.

    Marcus holds a B.A. in Political Science (Public Administration) from the City College of New York (CCNY), and an M.S. from the School of Engineering, Columbia University.

  • Georgios Petropoulos

    Georgios Petropoulos joined Bruegel as a visiting fellow in November 2015, and he has been a resident fellow since April 2016. Since March 2022, he has been a non-resident fellow. Since March 2019, he is a Marie Curie Skłodowska Research Fellow at MIT and Bruegel and post-doctoral fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Georgios’ research focuses on the implications of digital technologies on innovation, competition policy and labour markets. He is currently studying how we should regulate digital platforms, what the relationship between big data and market competition is as well as how the adoption of robots and information technologies affect labour markets and firms’ market returns. He holds a bachelors degree in Physics, master’s degrees in mathematical economics and econometrics and a PhD degree in Economics. He has also studied Astrophysics at a Master's level.

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