"More than ten years on, we take the European single market for granted. With old barriers gone, people, goods, services and money move around Europe as freely as within one countrya. If we choose, we can stay at home and enjoy a dazzling array of products from all over the European Union."

Up to a point.

But when was the last time you bought a new car in another member state? The glowing vision set out on the European Commission's internal market website doesn't quite apply to that sort of transaction. Some corporate customers increasingly take advantage of this single market. There is little evidence, however, that the ordinary consumer is leaping to seize the opportunities.

Are prices now so similar that the additional effort is not justified? Not if the EU figures out this week are to be believed. Despite some convergence, an Opel Astra still costs 50% more in Germany than in Denmark - offering Germans a potential saving of Euro 3,700.

Is it the fault of consumers? Are they just lazy? Certainly, for many EU citizens, the administrative challenge of researching prices across 24 other countries is a daunting prospect - and all the more so given the rich diversity of the EU's languages.

Is the car industry to blame? Clearly, manufacturers still have close links to dealers. And although the European Commission has said it will clamp down on...

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