The European Commission unveiled its detailed plans to create a Digital Single Market, thereby delivering on one of its top priorities.
The plan is based around three pillars:
- Better 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 to flourish.
- Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.
Under the first pillar there will be changes in the handling of VAT and cross-border shopping rules and steps to reduce geo-blocking of websites, shipping costs and inconsistencies in consumer rights enforcement.
Geo-blocking can be a useful tool when applied correctly to direct users to specific sites with localized content. What the EU wants to do here is make a stand for consumer rights by ending discriminatory practices used for commercial reasons, such as when online sellers either deny consumers access to a website based on their location, or re-route them to a local store with different prices. Such blocking means that, for example, car rental customers in one particular Member State may end up paying more for an identical car rental in the same destination.
Pillar two will be addressed by talking directly to stakeholders like Google and Amazon and will be achieved by overhauling telecoms rules and incentives for investment. The policy also looks to define priorities for standards and interoperability in areas critical to the Digital Single Market, such as e-health, transport planning or energy (smart metering).
The third pillar addresses the need to boost skills and standards and talks about a European Cloud initiative.
What the EU is saying:
“At present, barriers online mean citizens miss out on goods and services: only 15% shop online from another EU country; Internet companies and start-ups cannot take full advantage of growth opportunities online: only 7% of SMEs sell cross-border (see Factsheet for more figures). Finally, businesses and governments are not fully benefitting from digital tools. The aim of the Digital Single Market is to tear down regulatory walls and finally move from 28 national markets to a single one. A fully functional Digital Single Market could contribute €415 billion per year to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.”