Digital single market
Regardless of the EU Single Market, there still exist barriers that complicate the free movement of online services and entertainment across national borders. The Digital Agenda will update EU Single Market rules for the digital era. The aim for the Digital Single Market is to promote the integrity of EU Market, take the barriers down, protect EU consumers and encourage conducting business.
Digital Single Market
Digital Single Market enables businesses and individuals to conclude sales online without barriers in the EU. Digital Single Market is an area without borders and it gives safe and secure grounds for trade between businesses and individuals.
The most common barrier that complicates online business activities is the fact that services or goods cannot be delivered into other EU Member States. This is mostly because the Member States do not have common policy about online business or that the delivery of the goods and services are complicated which results in higher expenses. Digital Single Market gives the consumers and companies online freedoms and access to a wider market in the EU.
In June 2015 the Commission released an agreement, where the roaming charges will be removed by the end of June 2017. This means that when travelling in the EU, mobile phone users will pay the same price everywhere as at home, without extra charges. European Commission also released an agreement for open Internet. This means that there will be net neutrality rules protecting every European to access Internet content without discrimination. These decisions are an important part moving towards a Digital Single Market.
In the EU, consumers and retailers experience difficulties in cross-border e-commerce. Especially in the areas such as the rules for online contracting, consumer protection, dispute resolution, data protection and the use of e-signatures. These divergences exist because of the lack of EU regulations and also because of the existing regulations have not yet been fully harmonized in the EU. To improve current situation in the EU, different legislative proposals are in the work.
The e-Commerce Directive is the foundation of e-commerce legislation in Europe. The Directive covers topics like applicable law, information requirements, online commercial communication, online contracts and the liability of intermediaries. In the sake of Digital Single Market, it is essential that the e-commerce legislation will be fully harmonized in the near future.
Consumer protection law
Consumer protection and distance sales relations are covered by different directives, but the laws are not fully harmonized between Member States. These directives are based on minimum harmonisation, which means that the Member States can maintain more stringent provisions than mentioned in the directives. Because of that the consumer protection differs a lot between Member States. For example, after concluding a sales contract “the cooling-off period” according to the directive is 7 days. The Netherlands follows this rule, while in Germany “the cooling-off period is 14 days. That can cause confusion in consumers on what are their rights, especially when it comes to trading via internet in other countries.
Dispute resolution law
In the EU, there are no common legal frameworks for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and online dispute resolution (ODR). These matters are governed by the national law of the member states. Because of the EU’s Digital Agenda for Single Market, the framework of ADR and ODR has been proposed. Without ADR and ORD laws, the fragmentation has led to lack of awareness and difficulties for consumers and businesses to choose appropriate and suitable system for their cross-border disputes.
Personal data protection law
Personal data protection is a key aspect of the legal framework for cross-border e-commerce. Legitimate, secure, safe and free flow of personal information in the private and public sector, both within and between Member States, increases the trust in cross-border e-commerce and stimulates the economic activity in the Digital Single Market. In the EU the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been proposed and negotiated in the Trilogue Meeting. The GDPR should be adopted in the end of 2015 and it will harmonize fully personal data protection in the EU.
The economic impact of the Digital Single Market is very wide and it will give a boost to labour market, competition, growth, innovation and investment. The Digital Single Market can also bring the chances for new start-up companies and enable the already existing companies to grow and make profit and permit Europe to maintain the position it has as a world leader in digital economy.
The Three Pillars of the Digital Single Market
The Digital Single Market Strategy has put out the key actions that are described under 3 pillars which the Commission will be delivering by the end of year 2016. These pillars are the following:
- I pillar: The aim for the first pillar is to make cross-border e-commerce easier, enforce consumer rules and enhance fair competition in the European e-commerce markets. The first pillar harmonizes the laws concerning trade and consumer rights. Enables better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services in the EU.
- II pillar: Second pillar covers the area of EU telecom rules, cybersecurity and personal data protection. It creates the right conditions for digital networks and innovative services to flourish.
- III pillar: The objective of the third pillar is to maximise the growth potential of the digital economy. The third pillar covers the fields of European free flow of data and cloud initiative, priorities and interoperability of the Digital Single Market and e-government action plan.
The European Digital Single Market will have a big effect in European economy. Since these new directives and regulations will be harmonized, consumers and businesses will have a common and fair grounds for trade. These changes will encourage consumers to make purchases online from different Member States and enable businesses to provide services in other Member States.
Since the European Digital Single Market is a part of Europe 2020 Strategy, we will hopefully see outcome of these changes in the near future.
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