Going digital—e-commerce and the Digital Single Market

Going digital—e-commerce and the Digital Single Market

The European Commission recently launched its Digital Single Market, as well as an inquiry into potential competition concerns in e-commerce markets.


Richard Eccles, a partner at Bird & Bird LLP, examines these dual developments:

What is the significance of these latest developments?

The European Commission published its Communication on a Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe on 6 May 2015. This document contains proposals for a wide range of initiatives, many of them legislative, to remove barriers to online trading in the EU.

The aim of the Digital Single Market is to remove regulatory barriers to trade between the 28 national markets within the EU. The Commission estimates that a fully functional Digital Single Market would contribute €415bn per annum to the EU economy.

The Digital Single Market Strategy is built on three pillars:

  • improving access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe
  • creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services, and
  • maximising the growth potential of the digital economy

Within the first pillar, improving access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services, the Commission's proposals include the following:

  • legislative proposals to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU, including through further harmonisation measures—these proposals will include portability of legally acquired content, ensuring cross-border access to legally purchased online services (while safeguarding the value of rights in the audio visual sector) and modernising enforcement of intellectual property rights
  • action to end ‘unjustified’ geo-blocking—geo-blocking generally involves the use of technical means to prevent users outside a designated territory gaining access to a website, or techniques for re-routing consumers in certain geographical areas to a different website (where the relevant products or prices might differ)
  • measures to improve regulatory oversight and price transparency of parcel delivery
  • new harmonised contract rules across the EU for online purchases of digital content, with a set of mandatory EU contractual rights for domestic and cross-border online sales of goods

Under the second pillar, creating the right conditions for digital networks and services to flourish, the Commission’s proposals

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