The European Commission has published a communication on a Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe[1]. The communication sets out the actions to be taken to achieve the Commission’s idea for a Digital Single Market. It is built on three pillars: (1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.

Key actions in pillar 1 include:

  • amending the rules to make cross-border e-commerce easier. This includes harmonised EU rules on contracts and consumer protection when goods are bought online including digital content like e-books or apps;
  • legislative proposals are to follow before the end of 2015 to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works across the EU. The proposals are to include the portability of legally acquired content and ensuring cross-border access to legally purchased online services while respecting the value of rights in the audiovisual sector;
  • a review of the Satellite and Cable Directive to assess if its scope needs to be enlarged to broadcasters' online transmissions and to explore how to boost cross-border access to broadcasters' services in Europe;

Key actions in pillar 2 include:

  • a review of the audiovisual media framework focusing on the roles of the different market players in the promotion of European works (TV broadcasters, on-demand audiovisual service providers). The review is also to look at how to adapt existing rules (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive) to new business models for content distribution;
  • a review of the e-Privacy Directive building on the new EU data protection rules, due to be adopted by the end of 2015;

The aim is for the Digital Single Market project team to deliver on these actions by the end of 2016.

E-commerce sector inquiry

In conjunction with the Digital Single Market Strategy the European Commission has launched an antitrust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in the European Union[2]. The aim of the inquiry, is to allow the Commission to identify possible competition concerns affecting European e-commerce markets.

The sector inquiry will focus particularly on potential barriers erected by companies to cross-border online trade in goods and services where e-commerce is most widespread such as electronics and digital content.

If, after analysing the results, the Commission identified specific competition concerns, it could open case investigations to ensure compliance with EU rules on restrictive business practices and abuse of dominant market positions (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

In the coming weeks, the Commission will send requests for information to a range of stakeholders throughout the EU. The Commission expects to publish a preliminary report for consultation in mid-2016. The final report is expected in the first quarter of 2017.