Understanding the Impact of Covid-19
on E-Commerce

šŸ’¬ On Wednesday April 22nd, 2020, SME Connect organized a webinar, ā€œUnderstanding the Impact of COVID-19 on E-Commerceā€ to host a discussion about the positioning and the future of European e-commerce during the COVID-19 crisis.

The #Covid19 outbreak has taken Europe by storm, forcing national governments to implement drastic measures and citizens to practice social distancing.

Although these preventive measures stand to positively impact e-commerce by discouraging public life, the #outbreak highlighted how European #ecommerce still suffers because of an uneven playing field. Issues such as the disruption of value chains due to the pandemic impair the operation of e-commerce businesses and the lack of harmonization at a legislative national level limits the potential of the European Internal Single Market.

To minimize the economic impact of Covid19, whenever possible and compliant to national measures, we believe e-commerce should be promoted as a way to prepare for the #recovery of the European economy.

With the moderation of Dr. Horst Heitz, Chair of the European Steering Committee of SME Connect, high level speakers discussed the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on e-commerce, in its positive and negative consequences. While Alex Agius Saliba MEP, Rapporteur for the Digital Services Act, brought the perspective of institutional European actors, Oleg Roibu, Legal and Public Policy Diretor, eMAG, Magdalena Piech, Head of Regulatory Affairs, Allegro, James Waterworth, Director EU Public Policy represented platforms, big players and SMEs.

Alex Agius Saliba MEP welcomed the participants with an opening speech centered around the Digital Services Act, of which he is Rapporteur. The COVID-19 has highlighted the need for a sophisticated digital infrastructure to both ensure consumer protection as well as the upholding of fundamental European social principles. The current relevance of e-commerce highlights its double-edged nature: it stimulates the economy and keeps citizens supplied but simultaneously may facilitate the spread of abusive pricing, disinformation or hazardous and counterfeit products. For this reason, it is important to acknowledge the potential of e-commerce for the recovery, while at the same time recognizing the shortcoming of the existing legal framework to tackle these issues.

Oleg Roibu highlighted the importance of platforms like eMAG and Allegro for SMEs to reach a larger audience and, thus, diversify their retail channels. This was further remarked by Madgalena Piech, who spoke about the facilitating role of platforms for SMEs. In fact, especially in emergency situations like the COVID-19 crisis, they offer packages that allow entrepreneurs to go immediately digital, even from day to night, if need be, an, thus, access the online marketplace, reaching more customers. Moreover, they can also inform sellers about existing European legislation, enabling them to become compliant with them.

Lastly, James Waterworth observed the silver lining of these unfortunate circumstances: increasingly innovative partnerships are emerging between different players, partnerships which embody the resilience and resourcefulness of European enterprises. Ultimately, to overcome the crisis caused by COVID-19, it is necessary to digitalize the public sector through by strengthening public-private partnerships as well as develop mass testing capabilities jointly with national governments.