The European Commission has published a raft of proposals as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy, focusing on facilitating cross-border trade and e-commerce.

What’s the issue?

The original purpose of the European Union was to encourage trade between Member States by removing barriers and encouraging free movement of goods, services and people. One area where barriers are perceived to remain is around digital goods and services.  On 6 May 2015, the European Commission’s Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy was announced in order to break down these barriers. At its core are three ‘pillars’:

  • better online access for consumers and businesses across Europe;
  • creating the right conditions and a level playing field for advanced digital networks and innovative services; and
  • maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.

What’s the development?

The European Commission has unveiled further measures as part of the DSM Strategy, covering online platforms, proposed amendments to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), geo-blocking and e-commerce.

As part of its drive towards replicating the ‘real world’ single market for buying and selling goods and services in the online world, today’s announcements include:

  • plans to address the current disincentivisation of online platforms to take a more proactive approach to combating, for example, copyright infringement and hate speech, by seeking it out, rather than relying on notifications;
  • amendments to the AVMSD which would increase regulation of streaming services such as Netflix, to bring them closer in line with traditional television viewing platforms, as well as introducing a quota of European content for such services;
  • a proposal for a Regulation on addressing geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market, which, in its current form, excludes audiovisual media services;
  • a proposal for a Regulation on cross-border parcel delivery services aimed at increasing transparency and regulatory oversight to promote affordable cross-border deliveries and returns; and
  • a proposal for a revised Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation in order to give national authorities more power to enforce consumer rights in the digital world.

For full details see our article.

What does it mean for you?

The Commission set itself an ambitious timeframe in which to put through its reforms. While it is roughly sticking to schedule in terms of making proposals, getting them agreed is likely to be a different matter and it must be said that in a rush to stick to the timetable, some of the more difficult issues are simply being shelved. A case in point is that the proposed geo-blocking Regulation specifically excludes audio-visual services (often the focus of geo-blocking concerns) from its remit.