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Coronavirus, stress test for online shopping delivery services

The coronavirus emergency puts grocery home delivery services in difficulty online. The few operators of the Italian GDO face it stress-test of the explosion of demand and are struggling to manage it. And the delays linked to the contingent factor are added to the structural limits in the offer of services on the national territory. As well as the violation, which is found in several cases, of the consumer information rules.

coronavirus, stress-test for home shopping delivery services

the 10.3.20 - at the dawn of the entry into force of the 'Italy protected area' decree, which extends the drastic measures initially limited to the 'red zones' to the entire country - an overview of the food ecommerce sites offers a bleak scenario.

Operational problems they are declared by all sites. Carrefour, Coop, Amazon Prime and Supermercato24 (which manages the delivery service of 8 large-scale distribution stores), as expected, communicate delays and operational difficulties. (1) But that's not all.

GDO online shopping problems

Geographical limits of deliveries of food sold online

Esselunga - which donated 2,5 million euros to contribute to the public health emergency - is resisting the surge in requests well. The site does not go haywire, as happened to us with Coop's. However, the delivery service on the territory is very limited. And it is indicative in this sense that the only point of sale in the capital does not offer home delivery.

The locations served from spending online they are almost always the same, limited to some of the main centers. The hinterland and smaller cities. The widespread lack of a list of destinations reached by each operator, moreover, forces to check on each site from time to time the coverage of the geographical area of ​​interest.

Supermercato24 is an exception, which claims to reach Milan, Turin, Rome, Verona, Bergamo, Bologna, Brescia and Padua. And Easy Coop, which declares operations in Rome, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto.

Aid to the over-65s but not to the disabled

Free delivery to over-65 - initially foreseen only in the 'red zones' of the first hour - it is extended by Esselunga and Supermercato24 in all areas reached by the home delivery service.

People with disabilities however, they do not receive any help. As proof of how the large-scale retail trade in Italy still neglects the due attention to this category of weak contractors, which represents 5,2% of the Italian population (Istat data) and is already experiencing serious difficulties in accessing shops and supermarkets. Only Esselunga, even before the coronavirus, eliminated delivery costs for the disabled, for one delivery per week.

Lack of information to consumers

The inadequacy dell 'ecommerce it also reveals itself in the failure to comply with the rules governing consumer information. We have reported several times this phenomenon over the years, providing several reports against Amazon to the Antitrust (Antitrust Authority for Competition and the Market, AGCM). But our complaints have been ignored and the situation has not improved at all.

Regulation (EU) no. 1169/11 requires to communicate to the consumer, even in the event of distance selling, all the information required as mandatory on the label. (2) So that, before making the purchase choice, it can have full knowledge of the characteristics of the food. Among other things, these are also relevant for the purposes of food safety. But this obligation continues to be clearly evaded by Supermercato24 and Amazon Prime. It is therefore not surprising that the lack of trust which is holding back the growth of this sales channel. (3)

The information provided as mandatory on the label 'are available before the conclusion of the purchase and appear on the support of distance selling or are provided by any other suitable means clearly identified by the food business operator' (EU regulation 1169/11, article 14)

Ecommerce food, still at its lowest in Italy

The marginality of the canal ecommerce in Italy, in the food sector, it is well documented in relationship of the B2c eCommerce Observatory, promoted by school of management of the Politecnico di Milano and Netcomm, the Italian Electronic Commerce Consortium.

The Italian market online in Food & Grocery is close to 1,6 billion euros, with a considerable growth of 39% compared to 2018. And yet it still represents only 5% of the total ecommerce Italian B2c (equal to 31,5 billion euros).

89% of transactions in Food & Grocery is represented by food, which is worth over 1,4 billion euros. With a clear predominance of the delivery of ready meals from catering establishments:

food delivery in continuous growth, as seen, 566 million euros,

Grocery food (supermarket food references), € 476 million,

- food and wine (niche products), 383 million euros.

Shopping services online in Italy

Online shopping services in Italy they have increased in recent years, but the offer is still fragmented. 'Today just over two thirds of Italians (68,5%, up from 64% two years ago) can shop online, but with a level of service that is not always adequate to expectations, and almost half of the inhabitants (47 %, was 31% in 2017) is potentially covered by the home delivery service of ready-to-eat food.

The activation of an e-commerce initiative it represents only the beginning of a long and difficult process of integration between channels that requires long-term-oriented choices, continuous investments (in technology and more) and development of skills. Only in this way is it possible to overcome the still experimental features of many initiatives, to guarantee an increasingly extensive territorial coverage and to offer a suitable level of service. And it is precisely in the development of this sector - the first in the basket of Italian purchases - that the future of eCommerce in our country is at stake.'(Valentina Pontiggia, director of the B2c Netcomm eCommerce Observatory - Milan Polytechnic).

Marta Strinati and Dario Dongo

Footnotes to the story

(1) Supermercato24 delivers on behalf of Esselunga, Eurospin, Carrefour, Conad, Auchan, Coop, Bennet, Lidl

(2) The responsibilities of ecommerce operators are highlighted in the previous article https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/ecommerce-quali-responsabilità

(3) It is rather surprising the lack of official public controls, instead so scrupulous on physical sales channels (!)

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".

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