Digital Single Market

E-commerce: ending unjustified geo-blocking across the EU | European Parliament – Press Room

MEPs beefed up rules to ensure that buyers of goods or services from another EU country are treated like local customers in a committee vote on Tuesday.

The draft law defines specific situations in which geo-blocking will not be allowed. This means that online sellers will not be able to discriminate against consumers elsewhere in the EU with regard to general terms and conditions, including prices, on the basis of their nationality, place of residence or even their temporary location, MEPs added.

Treating EU buyers abroad like locals

Without paying more, buyers from another EU country than the trader would be able to:

  • buy goods (e.g. household appliances, clothes) even when the trader does not deliver them in the consumer’s member state of residence, if there is an option to collect the goods at an agreed location in another EU country (the proposal does not introduce an obligation to deliver across the EU),
  • receive online from the trader services not protected by copyright, such as cloud services, firewalls, data warehousing, website hosting,
  • (added by MEPs) receive e-books, e-music, games or software (i.e. non-audiovisual copyrighted content) if the trader has the right or a licence to use such content for the countries concerned, and
  • make a booking outside the consumer’s place of residence (e.g. hotel stays, sports events, car rental, music festivals or leisure park tickets).

Automatic re-routing to another website without the consumer’s prior consent would also be banned, except if an EU or national provision, e.g. related with minors, would make it necessary.

Movies and football matches not covered for now

Sectors such as audiovisual services (including broadcasts of sports events provided on the basis of exclusive territorial licenses), or financial, transport, electronic communication or healthcare services are excluded from the scope of the draft regulation for the time being. However, the EU Commission must assess within three years of its entry into force whether they should be covered in the future, added the committee.

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“Our work aims at a gradual opening of the European market for consumers and for traders by giving them clear rules. Consumers will have better access to goods and services online and for traders it will be less burdensome to sell to consumers from different member states”, said Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee rapporteur Róża Thun (EPP, PL).

Next steps

The committee’s vote gives its negotiating team, led by Ms Thun, a mandate to start three-way talks (trilogues) with the Council and the Commission, with a view to reaching an agreement on the final law. The mandate was approved by 31 votes to 2, with 1 abstention.

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EU coordinates key spectrum to boost connectivity in run-up to 5G | EU Council Press

he Council today adopted a decision which will ensure the release of high-quality airwaves for wireless broadband services in all EU member states in order to boost mobile connectivity and drive the roll-out of 5G technology. The coordinated use of the 700 MHz band, which offers high speeds and excellent coverage, will allow for faster and better internet connections across Europe. This will reduce the digital divide and make it possible to develop and offer new innovative digital services such as connected cars or eHealth, not just in urban but also in rural and remote areas.

As a result of this decision, mobile operators will obtain exclusive access to the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) by 30 June 2020. This timeframe coincides with the expected deployment of 5G networks in Europe. Member states may, however, delay this reallocation by up to two years, but only in duly justified cases set out in the decision.

The 700 MHz band is part of the 470-790 MHz range that is currently widely used for digital television broadcasting and wireless microphones at various events. To ensure that there is adequate spectrum available for the audio-visual sector even after the upper part of the range has been repurposed, broadcasting services will stay a priority in the sub-700 MHz band (470-694 MHz) at least until 2030, based on national needs. Member states will have the option of using this range for other purposes, including mobile internet services, as long as this is compatible with broadcasting needs.

All EU countries must set out an implementation plan for this reassignment by the end of June 2018.

“Opening the 700 MHz band for mobile internet helps ensure top-quality connectivity throughout Europe and can really transform many people’s lives – let’s think for example of the use of telemedicine in remote areas,” said Dr Emmanuel Mallia, the Maltese Minister for Competitiveness and Digital, Maritime and Services Economy. “It also represents a major step in the industrial shift to 5G, which is essential for the future competitiveness of the EU.”

Next steps

This final vote by the Council concludes the procedure at first reading. The European Parliament voted on 15 March 2017. The legal act will be signed by both institutions in mid-May and published in the EU Official Journal on 30 May. It will enter into force 20 days after its publication.

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Commissioner Jourová outlines the law enforcement challenges in the online world | European Commission – Press release

Commissioner Jourová delivered a keynote speech at a conference organised at the University of Luxemburg on the “law enforcement challenges in the online context”. The conference focuses on the challenges for European policy-makers and law enforcement authorities face when they want to obtain digital evidence. She said: “The digital revolution presents us with many challenges in different areas of law. Not only do we have to keep our citizens safe and safeguard their rights, we also have to equip competent authorities with adequate and modern investigation tools. (…) It is crucial for authorities to have access to e-evidence to effectively conduct criminal investigations.” The Justice Council requested the Commission to provide a framework for direct cooperation with service providers, improve the functioning of mutual legal assistance and explore the use of enforcement of jurisdiction in cyberspace. Following this request, the Commission has launched a consultation of experts to explore possible solutions. The Commission will present a comprehensive assessment and a set of options to Justice ministers at the Council in June 2017. The full speech is available online.

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Commission’s top scientific advisers publish opinion on cybersecurity in the Digital Single Market | European Commission – Daily News

Today the High Level Group of the Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) publishes an opinion on cybersecurity with recommendations to improve online access and safety for people and businesses in the EU. Recommendations touch upon the necessity to make systems more secure, to empower users, to strengthen Europe’s cybersecurity industry and improve the coordination on cyber-incidents across Europe. The opinion also calls for a global cybersecurity governance framework, in which the EU would play a leading role. Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, who requested the opinion, said: “As cyber threats are getting increasingly sophisticated, cyber security is of major importance for the Digital Single Market. Europe’s digital economy will only bring benefits to its citizens if they can be sure of its security. For example, the Commission is organising today a roundtable on main challenges for cyber security in the energy system. The scientific opinion is another important part of our cybersecurity policy and will feed into our work on cyber security in 2017.” Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, added: “Citizens need confidence in the Digital Single Market and the opportunities offered by digital technologies for better services and innovation. They need to feel reassured that their privacy is protected when they do business online, to enable growth and new business and at the same time to ensure that fundamental rights and values are protected. This independent scientific opinion provides many valuable insights to help us achieve these goals.” The SAM was set up in October 2015 to contribute to the quality of EU legislation and complements the existing science advisory structures of the Commission.

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Buying online and solving disputes online: 24 000 consumers used new European platform in first year | European Commission – Daily News

While there are strong rules in place in the EU to protect consumers, in practice consumers sometimes encounter problems getting redress when their rights are violated, particularly cross border. When consumers have made their purchase online, they should also be able to solve such problems online. Be it a seller refusing to repair a defective laptop within the guarantee period, or a travel agent not willing to refund a ruined holiday, such disputes can be settled faster and cheaper online and outside the court, via the European Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform, launched by the Commission on 15 February 2016. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “While we are still in an early phase of this new tool, we can already say that the Online Dispute Resolution platform has been well received by consumers. We also see that the mere fact of a consumer using the platform often is incentive enough for traders to resolve the dispute. We are giving consumers a practical tool to help them benefit from their rights in practice. On the other side, traders also have a lot to gain from this platform and should use it more. Particularly for online traders it is essential to be seen as reliable by potential consumers. Using this tool will help them earn consumer trust, whilst providing them with a simple and fast way of resolving disputes.”In its first year, over 24 000 consumer complaints were lodged. More than a third of the complaints concerned cross-border purchases within the EU. Most complaints were about clothing and footwear, airline tickets and information and communication technology goods. The Commission will prepare a first detailed report on the functioning of the platform towards the end of 2017. It is also planning further activities in 2017 to engage more traders and to further promote the platform amongst consumers. The Commission will also further improve the platform’s user-friendliness and monitor whether traders comply with their obligation to put a link to the platform on their website.

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E-commerce: EU-wide rules to protect consumers better and stop rogue traders | European Parliament – Press Release

New powers for national authorities to check whether e-commerce websites geo-block consumers, track down rogue traders or even, subject to safeguards inserted by MEPs, order that websites hosting scams be shut down, were approved by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee on Tuesday.

Under this draft legislation, national enforcement authorities would be required to have a set of powers to detect and halt online breaches of consumers’ rights across the EU.

Internal Market Committee rapporteur Olga Sehnalová (S&D, CZ) said: “This regulation has a big potential to significantly strengthen cross-border cooperation between authorities in the area of enforcement of consumer protection laws. As traders increasingly operate across the internal market, we need efficient mechanisms when something goes wrong”.

“The cornerstone of the revised rules consists of a set of investigation and enforcement powers for competent authorities in all member states, with a possibility of redress for consumers. We also call for better involvement of all entities with legitimate interests in consumer protection, in particular consumer organisations, when tackling infringements”, she added.

Internal Market Committee chair Vicky Ford (ECR, UK) said: “The report represents a major step forward for consumers in the EU. Fraudsters don’t stop at the border. One particular issue is that scams pop up in one country and then reappear in another one.  It is important to ensure that authorities can stay one step ahead of the scammers and not the other way around.”

You can read the full press release here

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Portability of digital content services: EU Presidency-Parliament agreement | European Council – Press release

On 7 February the Maltese presidency reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament representatives to remove barriers to cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market.

The agreement, which still needs to be confirmed by both the Council and the European Parliament, will allow consumers who have subscribed or bought online content services in their home country to access it when temporarily present in another country within the EU.

“Europeans travelling within the EU will no longer be cut off from online services such as films, sporting broadcasts, music, e-books or games they have paid for back home. Together with the ending of roaming charges, this is important progress in creating a digital single market which benefits everyone.”

Chris Cardona, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business of Malta.

Travelling with subscriptions to online services

The increased use of portable devices, such as tablets and smartphones, facilitates access to the use of online content services regardless of the consumers’ location.

There is rapidly growing demand on the part of consumers for access to content and innovative online services, not only in their own country but also when they are away from home. As a result, barriers that hamper access and use of online content services within the single market will be eliminated.

The new regulation is a part of digital single market initiatives to create a truly internal market for digital content and services. The Commission presented the original proposal in December 2015.

Scope of application

The new regulation will apply to online content services which are provided against payment of money. Free to air services, such as public broadcasters, will be able to benefit from the regulation provided that they verify the country of residence of their subscribers.

Current obstacles to cross-border portability of online content services stem from the fact that the rights for the transmission of content protected by copyright and/or related rights, such as audio-visual works as well as rights for premium sporting events, are often licensed on a territorial basis.

Country of residence

The new measures will ensure equal access from abroad to content legally acquired or subscribed to in the country of residence when temporarily present in another Member State such as for holidays, business trips or limited student stays.

To avoid abuses, service providers will verify the subscribers’ country of residence. The verifications will be carried out in compliance with the EU data protection rules.

Entry into force

Following the formal approval of the regulation by the Council and the Parliament, the new system will start to apply  nine months after its publication in the EU’s Official Journal.

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Better mobile connectivity across Europe: Council confirms 700 MHz deal | European Council – Press Release

The EU is responding to the rising demand for wireless connectivity by opening a key frequency band for mobile broadband. At the same time, the new rules take account of the continuing need for adequate bandwidth for television broadcasting. On 20 January 2017 member states’ ambassadors endorsed the deal concluded with the European Parliament on 14 December 2016.

Dr Emmanuel Mallia, the Maltese Minister for Competitiveness and Digital, Maritime and Services Economy, said: “Today’s decision means faster and better internet access, which is good for businesses and individuals right across Europe. We are also paving the way for the introduction of 5G technology, which will allow for greater connectivity and innovation.”

Under the agreement, EU countries will reassign the high-quality 700 MHz frequency band (694-790 MHz) to wireless broadband services by 30 June 2020. This coordinated use of airwaves will promote the take-up of 4G and help offer higher speeds and better coverage even in rural areas. It will also make it easier to roll out 5G (expected from around 2020), allowing for the large-scale introduction of innovative digital services such as telemedicine, connected cars and smart cities.

If member states are unable to meet the 2020 deadline, they may delay the reallocation by up to two years in duly justified cases. The agreed text sets out the possible reasons for such a delay. These include for example financial reasons and harmful interferences resulting from unresolved cross-border coordination issues.

The 470-790 MHz range is currently widely used for digital television broadcasting and wireless microphones, for instance in theatres, concerts and sporting events.

To give the audio-visual sector long-term regulatory predictability, broadcasting services will maintain priority in the sub-700 MHz band (470-694 MHz) at least until 2030, based on national needs. Member states will have the flexibility to use this range for other purposes, including mobile internet services, but this use must be compatible with broadcasting needs.

All EU countries must adopt a national roadmap by the end of June 2018, setting out how they will implement the decision. These roadmaps will be public.

How will it become law?

Once the agreed text has undergone legal-linguistic finalisation, it must be formally approved first by the Parliament and then by the Council (agreement at first reading). The procedure is expected to be completed in spring 2017.

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Digital Single Market – Commission strengthens trust and gives a boost to the data economy | European Commission – Daily News

The European Commission proposed today updated legislation to ensure stronger privacy in electronic communications as well as policy and legal solutions to unleash EU’s data economy, as foreseen in the Digital Single Market strategy presented in May 2015. The package will additionally include new data protection rules for EU institutions and set out the Commission’s strategic approach to the issues concerning international transfers of personal data. First Vice-President Timmermans said on the data protection initiatives: “Our proposals will complete the EU data protection framework. They will ensure that the privacy of electronic communications is protected by up to date and effective rules, and that European institutions will apply the same high standards that we expect from our Member States.” Vice-President for Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said on data economy: “In Europe, data flow and data access are often held up by localisation rules or other technical and legal barriers. If we want our data economy to produce growth and jobs, data needs to be available and analysed. We need a coordinated and pan-European approach to make the most of data opportunities, building on strong EU rules to protect personal data and privacy.” The proposal for ePrivacy Regulation aligns the rules for electronic communications with the new world-class standards of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Meanwhile, the Communication on achieving the European data economy is addressing unjustified restrictions to the free movement of data across borders as well as several legal uncertainties and prepares the ground for next steps.

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ePrivacy: Europeans call for stronger protection of their online communications | European Commission – Daily News

The European Commission publishes today the results of a Eurobarometer survey and a public consultation on ePrivacy, showing that Europeans call for stronger protection, whereas industry and public authorities express more diverse views. According to the Eurobarometer, a large majority of the respondents consider the privacy of their personal information, their online communications and their online behaviour very important. Similarly, the public consultation shows that 83% of citizens, consumer and civil society organisations consider it relevant to have specific ePrivacy rules for the electronic communications sector on confidentiality. The consultations provide valuable insight for the ongoing review of the ePrivacy Directive which the Commission will unveil at the beginning of 2017. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market said: “Europeans want more privacy when they send messages and talk to each other regardless whether it is online or through traditional services. Our aim is to reinforce trust and security in digital services to boost the Digital Single Market.” Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society added: “We want business to take advantage of data, to innovate and at the same time respect people’s privacy. Our proposal will strike a balance between the need for protection demanded by Europeans and flexibility requested by companies.” The review of the ePrivacy Directive will complement the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and will widen its scope to also include services such as internet-based voice and messaging services (“over-the-top” services). The proposal will also simplify the provisions for browser cookies giving more choice to users.

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