The single market in the European Union
In May 2015, the European Commission announced a detailed plan for the creation of a Digital Single Market. In October it also took action independently on the traditional market. In light of the announced plan the European e-commerce sector postulate to ensure the consistency of these two initiatives is very important. By Małgorzata Jankowska-Blank, head of the legal department at Gemius.
In October 2015 the European Commission presented a project which aims to improve the single market for services in the European Union, independently of the ongoing work already done on the creation of a digital single market. Meanwhile, the association e-Commerce Europe, which represents the interests of more than 25 thousand European companies, has been drawing attention to the fact that the two separately conducted projects should be combined.
The concept of the Digital Single Market
The creation of a Digital Single Market was meant to ensure the removal of national restrictions on transactions made over the Internet. According to the definition of the European Parliament, it is to eliminate the trade barriers currently existing in this sector, in order to increase economic prosperity and create even closer ties between the peoples of Europe. The creation of a Digital Single Market should have an effect on the recovery of the European economy.
In October, actions were announced that should lead to development and improvements in the functioning of the traditional market. The new strategy also aims to facilitate fixed companies operating across Europe. The plan will enable greater access to goods and services for professional workers, as well as creating new jobs to meet the broad needs of the market. The Commission is also planning new regulations relating to the financing of innovative companies, as well as businesses that are just starting up.
Three areas of action for the good of the common market
The actions are set to cover three areas: access to goods and services across Europe, uniform rules of business operation, and economic growth linked to digital and traditional trade.
Ecommerce Europe has pointed out gaps in the EC plan and noted that a new strategy for the single market should be delivered from two angles, enabling the development of both internet companies and the traditional commerce sector. This is why the association experts are insisting on not creating parallel and separate legal frameworks for both sectors, and the Commission wants to implement this suggestion.
An end to purchasing blocks for international customers?
As part of the activities in the designated areas, the Commission has proposed the development of new regulations to facilitate international e-commerce and the faster and more consistent enforcement of consumer rules.
What does this mean for the customer? One important aspect is the ending of the limits to the availability of online shopping that the EC sees as unjust. Nowadays, it is common that a customer wanting to buy something online is unable to make the purchase due to their location.
Sometimes this means it is not possible to make the purchase at all, while other times the customer is redirected to the website intended for users in their country. This very often leads to having to pay more for the goods than in the originally selected shop. By introducing new regulations, the European Commission is showing their commitment to policies for aligning goods pricing. These plans are also associated with changes in copyright law. The Commission is aiming to modernize the legislation in order to limit the differences between national copyright law systems and allow for wider online access to products across the European Union.
However, Ecommerce Europe recommends caution when introducing new regulations and is calling for only unjustifiable practices to be banned. Variation in pricing and conditions of purchase should be allowed if there is an objective reason, underpinned by a pricing policy. The new rules should also lead to the obligation to sell goods across the European Union – internet companies may have many objective reasons not to do so. Similar stipulations also apply to the traditional market. The separation of these two projects is therefore not the optimal solution.
Changes yes, but not separately
The Ecommerce Europe association has acknowledged that the new strategy has the potential to help create a real single European market for consumers and businesses. Experts point out, however, that the new proposals should not create two different legal regimes for the same product sold online or offline. The policy of changes should be consistent.
In the era of the coexistence of fixed sales channels with the ever more profitable sales channels online, introducing two separate regulations would have a negative effect on the development of the entire market.