Europe to ban electronic invoices

Europe to ban electronic invoices

This is how it will be read. When the European regulators produced guidelines on how bent a banana could be, there was a media frenzy. Headlines like “Europe Bans Bent Bananas” and “It’s Official – Bananas Banned by Brussels”. It was a Euromyth of course but it sells newspapers and I can feel the same thing is going to happen when the CEN get’s its hands on e-invoicing standards.

Purchasing Insight logoFriso de Jong reports in e-invoicing platform that the Phase III CEN e-Invoicing workshop is coming to an end. The overall target of Phase 3, he writes, has been the “Integration of efforts in standardisation and developments”. Friso reports that the results of Phase III will be presented and discussed with its participants and the attending public during an event that will take place on the 12 December 2011 in Brussels, Belgium.

Do we need more e-invoicing standards or fewer? This isn’t a rhetorical question but the answer does seem obvious when you ask it like this.

We need common standards – of course we do – but it’s much better to let the standards fight for survival than allow a talking shop in an ivory tower determine what is best for us. It’s a bit like getting boxing judges to determine the winner of a bout without the fight basing the result on the size and apparent fitness of the contenders. Quite apart from that being no fun, (if you like boxing that is), it’s absurd. Sure you need regulations – that’s why you have a referee to ensure it’s a fair fight and that no one get’s killed but the fight has to happen.

But market forces don’t always choose the best you might say. Beta Max was better than VHS. So what!? VHS gave us a economical standard that sold millions of video recorders. It may not have been the best but it drove the growth in that market. If the demand is there, the standards will sort themselves out. If you constrain the demand by regulation, you suppress growth. It makes no sense to develop further standards.

And a European standard at that? What are they thinking of. Do they really think that Europe is the at the center of the economic world. Do they think that those in the US or Latin America – or perhaps more importantly China, will breathe a sigh of relief that there is now another European standard for e-invoicing.

We’re only at 15% e-invoicing maximum (depending on how you count it) –  there’s lots more to be done. Until there’s a critical mass of buyers and sellers using electronic invoices as a matter of course, the cost of doing business remains unecessarily high.

It’s time that Europe got off its high standardization horse.

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