President Jean-Claude-Juncker interviewed today Mariya Gabriel, the candidate proposed by the Bulgarian Government for Commissioner to replace former Member of the Commission Kristalina Georgieva. On this basis, President Juncker confirmed the competencies of Mariya Gabriel required under Article 17(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) to become candidate for Commissioner and announced his intention to allocate the Digital Economy and Society portfolio to her. A Mission Letter sent today by President Juncker to Mariya Gabriel details her main tasks and responsibilities as Commissioner in charge of the Digital Economy and Society. Following today’s interview of Mariya Gabriel and the announcement by President Juncker of the portfolio allocation, the process will now follow Article 246(2) TFEU and point 6 of the Framework Agreement between the European Parliament and the European Commission. An exchange of views between Mariya Gabriel and the relevant Committee of the European Parliament is expected to take place in the coming weeks. Read the full press release available in all EU languages here.
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.
“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).
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.
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.”
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.
A wide variety of internal and external issues are up for debate at this week’s plenary session in Brussels. MEPs discuss the recent referendum in Turkey with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini while developments in Greece, Hungary and Venezuela are also on the agenda. In Parliament’s committees, MEPs are to vote on the protection of minors online and on limiting the geoblocking of services. Also up for a vote is the establishment of an EU fund to fight the root causes of migration.
The recent referendum in Turkey on sweeping new powers for the country’s president will be discussed on Wednesday afternoon with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
On the same day, members also debate the situation in Hungary including legislative measures that could force the closure of the Central European University in Budapest.
On Wednesday, MEPs discuss the European Commission’s “Social Pillar” initiative which aims to ensure social protection, dignity and a decent work-life balance for Europeans. Commissioner Marianne Thyssen will be in attendance.
Parliament discussed the latest political developments in Venezuela earlier this month; a resolution on the situation in the Latin American country will be put a vote on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, MEPs are to quiz Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem on the Greek economic reform programme.
On Monday, the foreign affairs, development and budget committees vote on establishing an EU fund to boost employment and stability in Africa and other regions in the EU’s neighbourhood. The European Fund for Sustainable Development aims to address the root causes of migration.
The culture committee votes on Tuesday to adapt the 2010 EU audiovisual media services directive to include new distribution methods, digitalisation, video-sharing platforms and the protection of minors.
Also on Tuesday, the internal market committee votes on new draft rules to stop price discrimination and different conditions for consumers buying goods or services from EU countries other than their own.
In the civil liberties committee on Tuesday, MEPs vote on rules to better harmonise reception conditions for asylum-seekers across all member states and to guarantee adequate facilities for vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors.
Click here for more on this week’s plenary.
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.
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.
As part of the celebrations of the 60 years of the Treaties of Rome, the Commission will bring tomorrow together Ministers from many EU Member States to progress on high-performance computing, connected mobility and industry digitisation. The Digital Day – a one-day conference on EU’s digital future organised in Rome – aims at boosting cooperation between Member States to better prepare our society and industry to reap the full benefits of the digital transformation. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “For over 60 years, European countries have worked together to capture the economic benefits of larger, better integrated markets, and made sure those benefits flowed to people. The same has to apply to the digital environment. Centuries ago, all roads were said to lead to Rome, but tomorrow’s digital highways will link every person, every object and every place. The Digital Day is about making sure that we make digital a truly positive power – in policies and laws, in our economy, society and in the lives of all Europeans.” Highlights of the Digital Day include a declaration to establish Europe as a global player in high-performance computing (HPC), a letter of intent to establish, together with the Commission, a legal framework for cross-border trials in connected driving and the launch of a European platform on digitising industry. Initiatives to boost the digital skills of Europeans will also be discussed
EU ambassadors today endorsed new rules to allow consumers who paid for online content services in their home country to access them when visiting another country within the EU.
Access to subscriptions from abroad at no extra charge
The new regulation will improve competitiveness by encouraging innovation in online services and attracting more consumers. It is one of the objectives of the digital single market strategy to create a truly internal market for digital content and services.
It will apply to all online content services which are provided against payment of money. Free to air services, such as those provided by certain public broadcasters, will have the option of benefiting from the regulation provided that they verify the country of residence of their subscribers.
Current obstacles to cross-border portability of online services arise from the fact that the rights for the transmission of content protected by copyright such as audio-visual works as well as rights for premium sporting events are often licensed on a territorial basis. Online service providers may choose to serve specific markets only.
The provision of cross-border portability will not be subject to any additional charges.
Verification of member state of residence
The new measures will ensure equal access from abroad to content legally acquired or subscribed to in the member state of residence when on holidays, business trips or limited student stays.
To avoid abuses, service providers will verify the subscribers’ member state of residence. The verifications will be carried out in compliance with EU data protection rules.
The provider will be authorised to cease the access to the online service when the subscriber cannot prove his/her member state of residence.
The means of verification will be reasonable, proportionate and effective. It will consist of using no more than two criteria from a list of verification means. These may include an identity card, a bank account or credit card; the address of installation of the device for the supply of services; the payment by the subscriber of a licence fee for other services; an official billing or postal address; etc.
But copyright holders will have the possibility of authorising the use of their content without the obligation to verify the subscriber’s residence.
Entry into force
Today’s decision confirms the provisional agreement reached on 7 February 2017 between the Maltese Presidency and European Parliament representatives.
After formal approval of the regulation by the Council and the Parliament, the new rules will start to apply in the first semester of 2018 (nine months after its publication in the EU’s Official Journal).
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 need to be eliminated.
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.
Less than three months after the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, unveiled a scheme to help local authorities offer free Wi-Fi connections to people living in or visiting towns and villages across the EU, Member States have already given their backing for the WiFi4EU initiative. Last Friday, during the Telecoms Council, EU Ministers approved a partial general approach on the Commission’s proposal to bring free Wi-Fi to the main centres of community life. With the first call for projects expected to be launched before summer 2017, any local authority in the EU will be able to apply for a voucher and provide high-quality internet access in their parks, squares, public buildings, or libraries. On 14 September, President Juncker said in his State of the Union Address: “Everyone benefiting from connectivity means that it should not matter where you live or how much you earn. So we propose today to equip every European village and every city with free wireless internet accessaround the main centres of public life by 2020.” Thanks to the efforts of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU, Ministers in charge of Telecoms have agreed with the Commission’s proposed funding scheme: WiFi4EU will be funded by the Connecting Europe Facility instrument. While keeping geographically balanced distribution between Member States, vouchers will be allocated on a “first-come, first-served” basis. Local public authorities wishing to offer Wi-Fi in areas where a similar public or private offer does not yet exist will be able to apply for funding via a simple and non-bureaucratic process.Total funding of €120 million has been earmarked for the 2017-2019 period. The Commission estimates that at least 6000 to 8000 local communities will be able to benefit from the scheme.