In his mid-term review of the Digital Single Market Strategy, Andrus Ansip identified the key outstanding issues in creating a European Digital Single Market.

What’s the issue?

The Digital Single Market (DSM) initiative was launched by the European Commission two years ago. Since that time, the EC has delivered 35 legislative proposals and policy initiatives. The focus is now on obtaining political agreement with the European Parliament and Council to finalise proposals, particularly on updated EU telecoms rules and in relation to the consumer protection proposals which have not seen significant progress.

What’s the development?

As part of its mid-term review, the Commission also highlighted three key areas where further EU action is needed:

  • The data economy - the Commission will propose a legislative initiative on the cross-border free flow of non-personal data in autumn 2017, and an initiative on accessibility and reuse of public and publicly funded data in spring 2018. The intention is to prevent Member States from restricting free movement of non-personal data subject to exceptions (in the same way that it is prevented in relation to personal data) and to improve the access and reuse of public and publicly funded data, for example in the areas of public transport and utilities. The Commission is also intending to continue its work on liability and other emerging data issues such as ownership of non-personal data;
  • Cybersecurity - the Commission will review the 2013 EU Cybersecurity Strategy and mandate of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), to ensure that they are aligned to the new EU-wide framework on cybersecurity and that they are fully equipped to deal with the new challenges that continue to arise. There will also be proposals to introduce certification and labelling for ‘internet of things’ devices to make them more secure;
  • Online platforms - the Commission will prepare legislation to address unfair contractual clauses and trading practices identified in platform-to-business relationships. It is also intending to clarify the position on illegal online hate speech and on the sale of counterfeit goods, as well as developing procedural practices (like notice and take down) around removal of illegal content. The intention is to increase transparency, protect fundamental rights but also to preserve the role of the intermediary in these situations.

For UK businesses, it is unclear how far the newly announced initiatives will progress before the UK exits the EU and, consequently, whether they will become law in the UK. It is, however, likely that all these initiatives will be relevant to the UK given the government’s stated intention to preserve cross-border data flows between the UK and the EU after Brexit, to work with the EU on cybersecurity, and, of course, to continue online trade with the EU.