How to enter the Romanian market. Advice for the e-commerce industry

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How to enter the Romanian market. Advice for the e-commerce industry

Romania – a Central and Eastern European Investment Hub

Among European economies, Romania’s has seen a rather steady growth, especially compared to pre-coronavirus periods. Various important international investments have been taking place there, for example in the IT industry and in logistics. The country is still developing fast, 35 years after the fall of Communism. While its economy can’t yet be compared to that of France, Germany, or Spain, it’s a solid middle power in that regard. For this reason, many businesses and investors are seriously considering expanding their operations into Romania. Are you one of them? All the more reason to read on!

Thinking of expanding your e-commerce business with cross-border sales?

Key Information About Romania

  • Flag of RomaniaLocation: Central and Eastern Europe, on the Black Sea and Danube. A part of the Carpathian Mountains range is located in Romania. The country borders Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary
  • Population: 19M
  • Capital: Bucharest (pop. 1.7M)
  • Other important cities: Cluj-Napoca (pop. 287K), Iași (pop. 272K), Constanța (pop. 264K), Timișoara (pop. 251K), Brașov (pop. 238K), Craiova (pop. 234K)
  • Official language: Romanian
  • Significant minority languages: Hungarian, Romani
  • Currency: Romanian leu (RON)
  • Form of government: Unitary semi-presidential republic
screenshot z Google Maps Mapa Rumunii

Source: Google Maps

Is Romania in the EU?

Since 2007, when it joined the European Union along with Bulgaria, Romania has been part of the group. Thanks to EU laws, any entity conducting business in one EU state may do the same in another. This makes expanding your business into Romania much easier. More specific information can be found for example here.

Is Romania in the Schengen Area?

Together with Bulgaria, Romania joined the Schengen Area on 31 March 2024; however, for now it only applies to air and maritime borders. It means that when travelling by land, any person still needs to undergo passport control. This may change later in 2024, though. Importantly, within the Schengen Area, the transit of goods is as free as that of people. You can find more information on the topic of Romania and Schengen here.

Currency in Romania

The official currency in Romania is the leu (RON), subdivided into 100 bani. There are currently plans in force for the leu to be replaced by the euro in 2029.

General Economic Overview

general economic overview of Romania (data as of April 2024)

VAT in Romania

Intra-EU sales VAT depends on whether you’re a private person buying goods or a trader and whether you’re purchasing goods or services. The rules naturally apply to Romania, an EU member state, as well.

If, as a private individual, you’re buying goods online from a company that exceeds a certain value of sales to your country, the seller charges your homeland’s VAT (obviously, it’s included in the price). Only if the seller is a relatively small one will it calculate based on its country’s VAT rate. Conversely, if you’re a trader and sell to a private customer, you generally apply their local VAT.

If, as a private individual, you’re buying electronic services (such as an e-book subscription) from a foreign company, you pay your local VAT rate (again, it’s included in the price). The same rule applies if you’re the seller.

If, as a private individual, you’re buying other services online, you pay the seller company’s local VAT rate (included in the price). The same rule applies if you’re the seller.

If, as a trader, you’re selling goods to a foreign, EU-based company, you generally don’t charge VAT. The ultimate taxpayer is the private customer buying the goods in their country. However, you deduct the tax you have paid to make the sale from your quarterly return.

If, as a trader, you’re selling services to a foreign company, you don’t normally charge VAT. However, you deduct the tax you have paid to make the sale from your quarterly return.

VAT rates in Romania

As for specific VAT rates in Romania, they are as follows:

  • 0% – international passenger transport;
  • 5% – books, newspapers, cultural institutions, catering, etc.
  • 9% – food, medical supplies, etc.
  • 19% – all other taxable goods and services.

If you wish to learn more about VAT in Romania, we invite you to look here. If you’re interested in how VAT is calculated within the European Union, visit the EU’s website.

Do you need content that captivates foreign customers?

Legal Requirements

Data Protection and Privacy

Due to Romania’s membership in the EU, all General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provisions apply there. The main legal bases on which data may be processed, therefore, are:

  • consent of the subject;
  • contractual necessity;
  • compliance with a legal obligation;
  • protection of the data subject’s vital interests;
  • performance of a task carried out in the public interest;
  • the data controller’s legitimate interest.

Romania has its own data protection supervisory authority called the National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing (Autoritatea Naţională de Supraveghere a Prelucrării Datelor cu Caracter Personal). Its President as of 2024 is Ancuţa Gianina Opre.

Consumer Protection

The chief Romanian institution responsible for consumer protection is the National Authority for Consumer Protection (Autoritatea Națională pentru Protecția Consumatorilor). According to the Romanian law, the main consumer rights are:

  • to be protected against the risk related to a product purchase;
  • to be fully informed of the characteristics of products and services;
  • to have access to a wide range of quality products and services;
  • to be compensated for the damage caused by the poor quality of the goods and services;to organise oneself in consumer associations.

Additionally, apply in Romania as an EU member state.

Detailed information on consumer protection in Romania can be found here.

Environmental Regulations

The main body responsible for enforcing environmental regulations in Romania is the country’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Forests.

As elsewhere, under Romanian law, a polluter has to pay for the harm caused, regardless of their liability. The polluter may be the owner of a land, the tenant, the concessionaire, or a third party. However, the country has not implemented an air pollution programme yet.

Romania is committed to achieving the EU’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Additionally, it has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.

As an EU member state, Romania follows the institution’s environmental initiatives, including the famed “European Green Deal”.

If you seek more information on environmental regulations in Romania, take a look at this website.

Customs and Import/Export Regulations

If you plan to sell products in Romania, and you’re based in another EU country, you must be wary of thresholds above which you must report your trade flows to the Intrastat. They are set by individual EU member states.In Romania in 2024, the annual thresholds for both total import and export value amount to RON 1,000,000. As a side note: officially, intra-EU transactions are not termed “imports” and “exports”, as this is applied to sales from outside the EU. One of the European Union’s basic rules is the free movement of persons and goods. It means that for internal EU transactions, no duty is generally due. An exception are certain chemicals and excised goods, such as alcohol. However, if you’re located outside the EU, you may be interested in reading a comprehensive summary of rules for transactions from non-EU states.. You can find more information about EU’s (and, therefore, Romania’s) customs rules here. The country’s Intrastat institution’s website is tutaj.

E-commerce in Romania

The digital infrastructure, including the penetration of the internet in most of the country, has led to an increase in online orders – also in rural areas. As for the whole outline of business in Romania (not limited to online shopping), the most popular products sold in 2023 were:

  • mobile phones and tablets;
  • TV sets;
  • laptops;
  • large appliances, such as refrigerators or washing machines.

According to Romania Insider, in 2023, 10.2 million Romanians were making purchases online – over a half of the nation’s total population. However, compared to the previous year, e-commerce total sales value increased by only 3%. Nevertheless, by 2022, e-commerce market value amounted to EUR 6.3 billion (RON 31.5 billion), still a huge and substantial number.

In 2023, the most blooming segment of e-commerce was children’s articles. Conversely, the online fashion industry experienced a drop of 10%. Still, clothing, footwear, and accessories continue to be extremely popular online shopping choices.

Unsurprisingly, the Millennial and Gen Z generations are the most active segment of the population as far as e-commerce is concerned.

Online food delivery is quite popular in Romania, with operators such as Glovo providing the services to customers. KFC’s website has been the most visited online delivery place in Romania.

Mobile Commerce

Mobile e-commerce is on the rise in Romania, similarly to other fast-developing Central and European countries. In fact, mobile devices are currently the preferred method for Romanians when it comes to online shopping.

Payment Methods and Logistics/Delivery

Although there is an increase in card payments at the time of ordering, in Romania, the pay-on-delivery option is still prevalent. People prefer to pay on delivery, either in cash or by card, especially for their first orders from an online shop or if the shop does not have a reputation or is not well-known.

The decision to pay in cash or by card on delivery is also conditioned by a given courier company – not all have implemented mobile POS systems. Customers also appreciate the option to pay in instalments, as well as free returns.

Apart from cash and card payments, certain contactless payment methods are also used – including PayPal and Apple Pay.

E-commerce logistics and delivery have been steadily improving. Efficient shipping is easily available, including same- or next-day delivery in major cities. EasyBox lockers (similar to Polish Paczkomaty) are becoming increasingly popular.

Marketplaces in Romania

According to Similarweb data, in March 2024, the most popular marketplace websites in Romania were:

  • emag.ro;
  • temu.com;
  • aliexpress.com;
  • amazon.com;
  • okazii.ro.

In terms of numbers, the Emag.ro website gains over 45 million monthly visits, of which two-thirds come from Romania. It generated over a billion US dollars in the Romanian market in 2023. According to ECDB, the biggest segment of purchases was electronics.

Consumer Behaviour and Preferences

Romanian is the official language of Romania, but other languages, particularly Hungarian, are also frequently spoken. Nowadays, many Romanians speak English (31%), but older people in rural areas are much less likely to know this language. Thus, translating content and product descriptions only into English may not be sufficient. On the other hand, if your website already has a Hungarian version, it may be easily adjusted to the Romania-based Hungarians’ needs. If you’re looking for an agency that can provide you with English-to-Romanian translation (or any other language pair translation, for that matter), contact us!

Romania is a rather conservative nation, so Western-style progressive-oriented campaigns may not always resonate with the buyers there. Conversely, in this Eastern Orthodox nation, religious holidays such as Orthodox Christmas and Easter are likely to be good sales occasions – just as elsewhere in Europe. However, keep in mind that the dates of Easter are different there. To avoid making mistakes, you can rely on our marketing calendar.

Around three-quarters of Romanians actively use social media – which is more than the number of people buying goods online. Among the most popular platforms are YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. Interestingly, TikTok seems to be more popular in Romania than in other Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland. Meanwhile, Instagram is the most popular among the youngest segment of the population. Make sure to keep that in mind when planning your online campaigns.

Summary

While every industry is different, doing business in Romania is as safe as in any Eastern European country such as Poland, Czechia, or Lithuania. The information contained in this article sufficiently shows that e-commerce in Romania is a viable option for all businesses wishing to expand towards the Eastern part of Europe.

If you’re based in the European Union, there’s nothing that really prevents you from opening a branch or simply shipping goods to Romania. EU laws and principles – mainly its freedom of movement of goods – enable smooth operation for all European Union companies. If you do business outside the EU, you may encounter a few hurdles, but the example of international corporations being present in Romania – including companies from the USA or Great Britain – is evidence that this is perfectly achievable, and without too many inconveniences.


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