The Digital single Market: where are we now and how will it apply to your business

Written on 29 Sep 2016

Jean-Claude Juncker’s recent State of the Union speech marked the start of another wave of measures in the European Commission’s Digital Single Market initiative. In quick succession following President Juncker’s speech, we saw:

  •  Vice President Andrus Ansip and Commissioner Günther Oettinger announcing controversial reforms of telecoms and copyright regulation; and
  •  Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announcing the preliminary findings of the e-commerce sector inquiry.

These wide-ranging developments demonstrate both the reach of the DSM and the many tools that the Commission is using to achieve it – with legislative reform, changes to the regulatory framework and competition investigations all being employed. However, the proposals themselves also reflect a compromise on the Commission’s original goal of a Digital Single Market “where everything that is possible in the physical Single Market is also possible in the digital world“.

Nonetheless, there are potentially significant changes that, if they come into fruition, will affect all tech, media and comms businesses and online retailers doing business in
Europe. The Commission’s findings and proposals are now open to consultation, making continued lobbying on the key issues essential. (For businesses in the UK, Brexit may make it more challenging to influence change in the EU. However, BEIS is still active in the Council and engagement through European trade bodies can be very effective.) Please do speak to our experts to find out more.

E-commerce

Over 15 months since it first launched its competition inquiry into e-commerce, the Commission has now released its preliminary findings. It has identified several common e-commerce business practices that may raise competition concerns, including price recommendations/restrictions, limitations on the use of online market places, agreements on geo-blocking and an increase in the use of selective distribution.

Copyright reform

The Commission published its proposed EU copyright reform package on 14 September 2016. According to the Commission, the proposals are intended to promote “a fair, efficient and competitive European copyright-based economy“. In contrast, some commentators have described them as “a backward step for copyright in Europe“. The legislative proposals include:

  • a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, with the focus on granting rights holders and publishers of press publications greater protection against the online exploitation of their content (read more); and
  • a Regulation laying down rules on the exercise of copyright and related rights applicable to certain online transmissions of broadcastings organisation and re-transmissions of television and radio programmes, which essentially extends the SatCab directive to simulcasts and catch up services (read more).

The proposals are many and varied and they touch upon multiple actors in the digital ecosystem and a number of different sectors, from the press to music
to broadcasting. There are potentially serious consequences for certain players, particularly the providers of “information society services” who may have to police content on their services. Detail is generally light and there is much work for Member States to do in terms of implementing some of these reforms in a meaningful and workable way.

Telecoms

The European Commission has announced its proposal for reforming the current European telecoms package through a new European Electronic Communication Code. The Code is intended to consolidate the existing telecoms framework, harmonising and simplifying national legislation with an additional objective of ensuring high capacity connectivity across Europe. The Code deals with a number of different aspects such as re-classifying service providers, universal access, the licensing regime and spectrum. What does this mean for communications service providers and telecom operators?

Need to know more about the Digital Single Market?

Given the pace of development and the range of topics covered, it can be difficult to keep up to date – and to know what your business should be looking at. This is where we can help, with a range of products available to help you navigate and prioritise the relevant areas of the initiative.

Whether you would like regular updates tailored to your business, a short training and Q&A session on the key developments, or detailed risk analysis and strategy planning, our international team is on hand and would welcome the chance to discuss this with you.