Spain, Selling Online FAQ

Summary

In 2010, 24 percent of individuals in Spain, between the ages of 16 and 74, bought goods online, according to the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat). This represents a 17 percent increase from 2008. Travel and holiday accommodations were the most commonly purchased items online, with 15 percent of individuals ordering them online in 2010. This was followed by event tickets, at ten percent, and clothes and sports goods, at seven percent. Internet users were more likely to purchase goods and services online from national sellers (20 percent) than from sellers in other EU countries (7 percent) or sellers outside of the EU (4 percent).

What are the most popular search engines in your country? How does a U.S. manufacturer submit sites to those search engines?

The most popular search engines in Spain are Google and Yahoo. A list of popular news sites and search engines is provided below. In general, there are no impediments to U.S. companies submitting a website or advertising through these search engines. Nevertheless, it is important to check the conditions of participation for each company. In some cases, the search function is powered by another search engine, like Google.

Which online social networks are most popular?

Facebook and Tuenti (www.tuenti.com - a Spanish site) are the clear leaders in social networking.

Is it necessary to have the site in the local language for the website to be indexed?

No, English language sites can be indexed as well as Spanish. Autonomous Regions of Spain which have official languages -- Euskadi/Basque or Catalan -- also allow indexing of English language sites

Is it necessary for the site to have the domain of the country? If so, is it possible for a U.S.-based site to obtain the local domain?

It is not necessary for a site to have the Spanish domain “.es”. The regulations for obtaining a “.es” domain are included in Order CTE/662/2003 enacted on March 18, 2003. The Spanish-language text of this order and other relevant regulations are available here. The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, through the public entity Red.es, is responsible for registering .es domains. The local domain “.es” can be obtained by individuals with residence in Spain or by public entities such as companies, legally incorporated in Spain. The initial subsidiary of a foreign company can also obtain the local domain, if they are included on the Registro Mercantil (Company registry).

Are there any popular online marketplaces or auctions, like amazon.com or ebay.com in the US?

Yes, some of the most popular online marketplaces in Spain are:

Can the exporter advertise its Internet site/product/service in pop up ads on the local ISP’s networks? Are there any regulations on spam or privacy? Other e-commerce laws?

Each ISP has different advertising format guidelines, to be checked by the exporter. In general, it is possible to use pop-ups and other advertising tools.

There are regulations against spam and commercial communications, especially for those targeting consumers. We recommend that companies read the report released by the European Union Office titled “EU Moves to Ban Spam”. It provides an excellent background on the issue.

Key regulations affecting e-commerce are:

  • Law on Services of the Information Society and E-Commerce Law 34/2002 of July 11, 2002. (LSSI)
  • Laws on protection of personal data, Law 15/1999, of December 13th, and Law 32/2003 of November 3rd.
  • Law on electronic signature (Law 59/2003, of December 19th).

Are there restrictions on advertising (Are comparative ads allowed? Are there restrictions on ads targeting children? Is it permissible to use lotteries, competitions, contests, games or bets as part of a promotional offer?)

There is a basic distinction in Spanish e-commerce law between e-commerce companies based in Spain or in third countries. The Spanish legislation on advertising is mostly focusing on the first type. There are restrictions, however, and areas of special protection related to public order, public health and protection of minors. It is recommended to consult a local law firm to avoid legal problems when in doubt.

To what extent can a buyer in this market pay for an order over the Internet using a credit card or other Internet-based financing vehicle, such as Pay Pal?

A buyer is free to use a credit card or other Internet-based financing vehicles to pay over Internet. The most common and continually growing method of payment is through credit cards.

Are Internet transactions recognized as legal sales contracts? Is there a digital signature law that recognizes digital signatures?

Yes, Internet transactions are recognized as legal contracts, with validity and effectiveness, if the contracts comply with the relevant regulations. The electronic signature is recognized and has legal effectiveness, but it must be certified in accordance with Spanish regulations (Law 59/2003, of 19 December).

Would there be any undue Customs or related delays incurred on Internet-transacted sales?

We have received no reports of undue delays at customs or in other parts of the logistics chain, for sales to consumers, affecting Internet transacted sales. We recommend companies read the report released by the European Union Office entitled “How EU VAT Impacts U.S.-based Suppliers of Online Content, Software and Services.”

Is there a national webseal or trustmark program in this market that increases consumer confidence? E.g., BBBOnline in the U.S.

Yes, the government is encouraging electronic services providers to establish Codes of Conduct, in line with European Union recommendations in this area. Royal Decree 292/2004 of February 20, 2004 created a public seal of trust focusing on Information society and e-commerce, and regulates the requirements and procedures of concession. The site www.confianzaonline.es provides a seal of trust and has the backing of the Spanish Ministry of Industry.

If disputes arise between seller and buyer, is there a timely and low cost dispute resolution mechanism available?

Local attorneys are recommended for dispute resolution, but tend to be prohibitively costly for small transactions. In some cases arbitration is also available as a simple and timely conflict resolution mechanism (Article 18 and 32, Law 34/ 2002, July 11) (LSSI). The Secretariat-General of Communications of the Ministry of Development enforces this law.

Can U.S. manufacturers participate in local government procurements via Internet based tenders? If so, how are these tenders publicly advertised?

U.S manufactures can obtain information related to government tenders through the Internet. However, central and local governments do not commonly permit tenders to be submitted through the Internet. These tenders are publicly advertised in the Official State Gazette (BOE), and through the websites of the different ministries or other government bodies. To participate in the actual procurement, a local representative is required.

Is there any additional advice you would give to U.S. exporters targeting this market through the Internet?

Companies interested in additional information related to Internet and e-commerce in Spain are invited to contact:

Jesus Garcia Lozano

Senior International Trade Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service

American Embassy

Tel: (34) 915.648.976, ext. 2619

Fax: (34) 915.630.859

Email: jesus.garcia@mail.doc.gov

Website: http://www.buyusa.gov/spain/en/

U.S companies also can also check the following websites and address for additional information about e-commerce: