E-commerce, geo-blocking, online platforms and rules for audiovisual media across the EU: European Commission publishes comprehensive package as part of its Digital Single Market initiative.
When the Commission launched its Digital Single Market strategy just over a year ago, “better online access to online goods and services” was one of its three founding ‘pillars’. On 25 May 2016 the Commission published a package of measures to implement this, including to:
- promote cross-border e-commerce;
- limit geo-blocking;
- deal with online platforms; and
- amend the TV and media rules across the EU by reforming the Audiovisual Media Services Directive 2010.
Boosting cross border e-commerce has continued to be a fundamental goal, but the Commission has encountered significant barriers. Not least, it quickly discovered that defining ‘unjustified geo-blocking’ would not be straightforward, with challenges for cross-border sales of both digital content and physical goods hampering the aim of unrestricted cross-border access.
In an attempt to head off potential justifications for geo-blocking, the Commission has sought to reform cross-border parcel delivery and further harmonise consumer law.
As for platforms and the audiovisual sector, Vice President Andrus Ansip said: “I want online platforms and the audiovisual and creative sectors to be powerhouses in the digital economy, not weigh them down with unnecessary rules“. He went on to say: “They need the certainty of a modern and fair legal environment: that is what we are providing today.”
In this briefing, our international experts consider how far the Commission’s latest package goes towards achieving these goals – and how it will affect your business.
The Commission states that its proposed Regulation “prohibits the blocking of access to websites and the re-routing of customers from one country version to another“. However, the proposal does not address pricing; audio-visual content is excluded; and traders will not be forced to make cross-border deliveries of physical goods. So to what extent will this really impact the day-to-day business of most traders in Europe?
The Commission’s updated directive contains some of the most controversial proposals in the DSM initiative, including the imposition of financial levies and content quotas for on demand programme services. Video sharing platforms are regulated for the first time, regardless of jurisdiction, and deregulation in certain areas could prove beneficial for linear broadcasters and on demand programme services.
The European Commission published its communication on online platforms which: (i) outlines the key issues identified its assessment of online platforms; and (ii) sets out its approach to online platforms in the future. Online platforms have been squarely within the sights of the Commission since the start of the DSM initiative. We analyse what the Commission is proposing to do about them and whether it intends to introduce a ‘platforms regulation’.
The Commission’s digital upgrade to consumer protection cooperation legislation is designed to simplify the currently complicated multi-national consumer protection laws and increase enforcement.
In a further ‘digital upgrade’, the new guidance offers tips on how to apply the 2005 Directive to everything from Internet platforms to the e-Commerce Directive and other consumer legislation. The Commission wants to enable consumers to buy online as confidently as they would offline. Therefore, as a response to current challenges, Guidance has been issued to clarify, among others, what qualifies as an unfair commercial practice in the digital word. The Guidance highlights pan-EU questions such as the interplay between the Directive and other EU legislation, relevant EU and national case-law or the application of the Directive to new and emerging business models. The Commissioner for Justice affirmed that this is “an important step to bring consumer protection up to speed with the online world and to give legal certainty to traders.”
In a bid to drive down the cost of cross-border parcel delivery, the Commission proposes to establish a price comparison website. Delivery companies with 50 or more employees that work in more than one country will be required to publish prices for a range of shipping services annually.