BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2017/42

The Russian administration has recently been enthused over digital economy and compiled related development programmes, most recently for electronic commerce. Developing effective online shopping seems sensible for Russian circumstances given that internet penetration is extensive and physical distances are huge. Yet the goals for this modern branch bring to mind the traditions of the planned economy. For example, it declares that by 2025 e-commerce should account for 20 % of retail sales in Russia, that Russia should account for 10 % of global online sales and that over 80 % of persons 13 and older will have made online purchases.

Estimates on the size of Russian online retail sales in 2016 vary between 1–2 trillion rubles (14–27 billion euros), or 3–4 % of total retail sales. The value of online purchases from foreign vendors last year amounted to about 300 billion rubles (4 billion euros), of which about half came from China. Russia accounts for about 1 % of global e-commerce. While total retail sales and imports have contracted sharply in recent years, online retail has continued to grow. About 30 million Russians, roughly a quarter of the adult population, have bought something online at some point.

The programme to boost e-commerce includes proposals to liberalize online sales of food, alcoholic beverages and pharmaceuticals. While no specific barriers to foreign retail sales are proposed, vendors should specify that their goods are not certified to Russian standards. The Eurasian Economic Union is currently discussing a proposal on reduction in the monthly duty exemption for online shopping from the current 1,000 euros to 200 euros by 2020. The duty on purchases above the limit is 30 %.