Rolling Stone Mick Jagger joined a new group today – of consumer and industry chiefs drawing up an online shopping report for the European Commission.
The rock star’s involvement was announced after he met with fellow members of an “Online Commerce Roundtable” at Commission headquarters in Brussels.
Jagger was ushered through the Commission’s VIP entrance without fanfare to take part in talks designed to help the Commission with proposals to crack down on obstacles plaguing online retail sales in the EU single market.
The Commission is concerned that shoppers are facing cross-border frustrations when buying online, from sales small print and guarantee snags to after-sales service difficulties with goods bought over the internet.
Jagger was invited to take part by the EU’s Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, an old friend.
His expertise will be used in resolving problems involving downloads and music copyright.
He joined his eight fellow Roundtable members including Apple boss Steve Jobs, head of EMI Roger Faxon and Chief Executive Officer of Fiat John Elkann for a first debate.
Jagger spoke about the online retailing trade, particularly online sales of CDs and music downloads, and will be involved with the others in preparing what the Commission said would be a short report later this year.
The Commission will then invite “interested parties” to submit their responses by mid-October next year.
Commission proposals to improve online retailing will then follow.
Jagger left the Commission as quietly as he arrived, heaving heard a speech by Ms Kroes setting out the problems still confronting online shoppers across Europe – particularly in the music sector – and explaining what expertise Jagger and the rest of the Roundtable group could provide.
Ms Kroes told them that the people of Europe had been promised a single market, but they still had not got it on the internet.
She went on: “Progress has been made, sometimes impressive, but it is not enough.
“There seem to be many reasons for this, some common to the online and the off-line worlds, including tax systems, consumer protection laws, guarantees and after-sales service.
“But even in areas where these concerns have been overcome, consumers often find that the products they are looking for are not available to them. As Competition Commissioner, I want to know why.”
More rigorous competition rule enforcement was probably the answer regarding online sales of “physical” products, she said, but added: “For digitally-delivered products, such as music, the position seems more complicated, but no easier to explain to the consumer.
“Why is it possible to buy a CD from an online retailer and have it shipped to anywhere in Europe, but it is not possible to buy the same music, by the same artist, as an electronic download with similar ease?
“Why do pan-European services find it so difficult to get a pan-European license? Why do new, innovative services find licensing to be such a hurdle?”
Ms Kroes added: “The answer, as we have heard today, is complex. The rights are more complicated, the licensing agreements are more complicated, the issue, so everyone has told me, is more complicated.
“Collecting societies have a vital responsibility in looking after the interests of artists. That is only right because music is a vital part of our society and our culture. It always has been and it always will be.”
Ms Kroes said that, historically, the copyright system had always found ways of dealing with complex licensing issues and technological change.
She thought it could again in the online world – but warned: “If a solution to the problems we face today is not found, then the music industry can hardly complain if regulators or enforcers step in.”
Jagger is expected to play his part trying to ensure the regulators are not called in.