Retail e-commerce in the United States

U.S. retail e-commerce is the second largest in the world, with estimated revenues of $870.8 billion in 2021.

In the United States, e-commerce accounts for approximately 12.5% of physical goods trade, i.e., business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales taken together, according to U.S. government data.

A small number of online platforms (Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart) concentrate several hundred million monthly visitors on their websites; online platforms have also specialized in different product categories based on their business strategies.

At the same time, licensed by the state as a money transmitter, PayPal is the most widely used online payment service in the United States.

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act of 2000 provides that, in general, an electronic signature, contract or other record cannot be denied legal effect merely because it is in electronic form.

On the other hand, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act sought to harmonize state laws in this regard and provided a model law for states to adopt.

Retail e-commerce

The Internet Tax Freedom Act prohibits state and local taxes on Internet access and multiple and discriminatory taxes on e-commerce; this prohibition has been extended indefinitely by the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act.

However, with respect to taxation of online sales, states may require online retailers to collect sales tax regardless of physical presence in the state; small sales exemptions from sales tax registration depend on economic thresholds that vary substantially among U.S. states.

The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2020 required the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop and publish standards and guidelines for the federal government on the proper use and management of IoT devices.

At the multilateral level, the United States is actively involved in e-commerce issues at the WTO. It is a party to the expanded Information Technology Agreement, participates in WTO programs covering certain aspects of e-commerce and digital trade, and adheres to the WTO moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions.

Along with 85 other parties, the United States participates in the ongoing plurilateral negotiation on electronic commerce, which aims to establish a global framework for a worldwide digital marketplace.


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