(content provided by EuroCommerce) Director-general Christian Verschueren has set out the sector’s positive position ahead of the European Commission’s mid-term review of the EU Digital Single Market.
"Barriers still exist"
“We are happy to see that the Commission will be taking action on many of our priorities and has been careful to avoid stifling innovation and the emergence of new business models. But the Digital Single Market cannot function without the harmonised and workable Single Market overall. The barriers that still exist to creating a Single Market, and a worrying increase in protectionist measures in Member States, are areas which we urge all three EU institutions and national governments to tackle, either by enforcing existing rules or creating new ones when this makes sense.”
Two years after the launch of the Digital Single Market Strategy, the European Commission issued a mid-term assessment of progress. EuroCommerce has strongly supported the strategy and the Commission’s efforts to create a truly Single Market fit for the digital age. This support continues, but the retail and wholesale sector is asking European decision-makers to create ambitious rules for the digital transformation of the European economy. In particular, Europe needs action to allow consumers and traders to make the most of the potential of a market of 500 million Europeans.
The key priorities for the sector, for which EuroCommerce has consistently called are:
- Regulation of ecommerce providing a balanced and fully harmonised framework of consumer and other rules. Harmonising consumer guarantees is not simple, but we regret that little progress has been made on the Commission proposal, especially in the Council. We are happy that the European Parliament‘s position provides for equal treatment for all channels of trading, whether online or offline. For cross-border e-commerce to take off, we need rules that protect consumers and also practical and proportionate.
- We have supported the idea behind the draft geoblocking regulation, but as proposed, it will do little to boost cross-border e-commerce. At present, even with some welcome amendments, it still falls short of creating legal certainty for traders. The regulation obliges them to sell to markets they have never actively targeted, while being vague as to the degree of their exposure to potentially major legal and commercial risk.
- Simplifying the VAT regime by the extension of the Mini-One-Stop-Shop, creating of a common VAT threshold, and removing the small consignments exemptions (VAT). The proposed measures on VAT put forward last year are a real step forward, and it would be regrettable if this practical measure were held up by the usual lengthy wrangling over tax measures in the Council.
- Creating a vibrant EU data market, allowing companies that generate and use data to benefit from its potential on a fair, legally certain and non-discriminatory basis without hindering the contractual freedom of businesses dealing with each other.
- An e-privacy measure which contributes to a fully harmonised data protection regime for electronic communications. This needs to be fully aligned with the General Data Protection Regulation and does not discriminate against any business model.
- Clarifying the role, responsibilities and practices of platforms to ensure that traders using them are treated fairly, and that all traders compete on a level playing-fieldin terms of tax, labour and environmental law.
- Encouragement of employee training to equip people with the digital skills and flexibility needed to meet rapidly-changing consumer buying habits and demands, and changing patterns of work. We also want to see more EU resources into helping SMEs in our sector with the skills and resources to enter the online market
Christian Verschueren added: “In the uncertain political times and still slow economic recovery, Europe’s economy must be equipped to work on an equal footing with its global competitors. Many of the EU’s retailers and wholesalers have embraced the digital revolution: e-commerce is a source of continued growth, and we can give the strategy a positive scorecard. But this is only the mid-term, and to exploit Europe’s full digital potential, we need to remove remaining barriers to trading cross-border and create a fully Single Market for digital and non-digital trading.”