EU Digital Single Market takes shape

The EU Commission is looking to grant European citizens new rights for online purchases and assist businesses with cross-border activity, as well as making modernising EU copyright rules

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The EU Commission is trying to create more harmony between member states when it comes to online cross-border transactions

A new batch of proposals were released by the EU Commission that aim to give consumers and businesses improved access to online goods and services across the 28 member states, as part of the on-going push to create a Digital Single Market.

By breaking down the barriers to online cross-border transactions, EU officials hope that it will help member states access the full potential of the burgeoning e-commerce market.

As it stands, just 12 percent of EU retailers sell online goods and services to consumers living in other EU member states, and only 15 percent of consumers choose to purchase online goods outside of their own country.

[T]he EU Commission plans to harmonise consumer contract law, making it cheaper to businesses, particularly SMEs, to conduct operations cross-border

In an attempt to address this problem, the EU Commission plans to harmonise consumer contract law, making it cheaper to businesses – particularly SMEs – to conduct operations cross-border. In addition, it intends to give consumers greater rights, so that they feel more comfortable purchasing goods online from another EU country.

“When you download a movie or a song, it must play,” said Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the Digital Single Market. “If this is not the case, you should be able to end the contract and get your money back.”

“Today’s proposals will give more rights to consumers on-line – allow them to enjoy products and services from other EU countries in full confidence.

Businesses, especially the smallest ones, can grow across borders at less cost, with a common set of EU rules instead of a patchwork of national laws,” he added.

EU officials believe that by removing these barriers and harmonise laws across the region will bring in an extra €18bn ($19.7bn) to the European economy, driving up GDP in the process.

The commission is also planning to introduce new legislation that will improve cross-border portability. This means that European consumers’ films, games or e-books – bought online at home – will be available to them if they travel across the EU.

“[These] proposals will give confidence to consumers to buy across borders and offer simplification for businesses, especially SMEs, selling online across Europe,” said Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “The internet has lifted technological barriers to a Digital Single Market; with the digital contracts proposals we want to lift legal barriers.

“Harmonising contractual rights throughout the EU will facilitate the supply of both digital content and goods across Europe.

“Consumers will benefit from simple and modernised rules; businesses from more legal certainty, cheaper and easier ways to expand their activities. This in turn will bring more choice at competitive prices to consumers,” she added.