Although following the result of the EU referendum, its impact
on the future of the digital single market and the UK is uncertain,
it seems likely that it will remain relevant to those operating in
the European market and perhaps even in the UK, depending on the
outcome of exit negotiations.
On 25 May 2016, the European Commission announced a tripartite
plan of attack aimed at pushing the digital single market strategy
forward. The package contains measures to tackle geoblocking,
improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness pf cross-border
parcel delivery and increase the levels of consumer protection and
enforcement to grow levels of trust in e-commerce.
The Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip,
explained that "...all too often people are blocked from
accessing the best offers when shopping online or decide not to buy
cross-border because the delivery prices are too high or they are
worried about how to claim their rights if something goes
wrong." The new proposals will begin to break down the
barriers seen as hindering the e-commerce market.
The Commission has proposed that new legislation is enacted to
prevent discrimination based on nationality or place of residence
in relation to prices, sales or payment conditions. The legislation
will contain a caveat providing for discrimination to be
objectively justified on grounds such as for VAT purposes or where
it is in the public interest. The new legislation would also be
qualified to the effect that there is no obligation on companies to
deliver to all countries in the EU and small businesses will be
exempted from certain provisions.
Cross-border parcel delivery
In order to combat high delivery charges in cross-border
shipping, issues with parcel delivery and oblique delivery pricing,
the Commission have proposed a new regulation. It is hoped that the
regulation will increase the transparency of cross-border delivery
and increase selling and buying across the EU. The proposals do not
increase a price cap on delivery; rather they aim to increase
competition between delivery services by publishing the listed
prices of universal service providers so that consumers can easily
compare and choose the most cost-effective delivery option for
them. However, the Commission have not ruled out price regulation
and there will be a review in 2019 to assess whether such measures
are necessary, though it is described as a 'last
Increasing consumer trust
The Commission have proposed that the Consumer Protection
Cooperation Regulation be revised to strengthen and add to existing
powers national authorities have for the enforcement of consumer
rights. The changes mean that national authorities would be able to
check whether a website uses geoblocking, order the immediate
take-down of websites hosting scams and request identification
information from domain registrars and banks so that the
person/entity liable for any such behaviour can be traced.
A further change is the introduction of the Commission's
ability to coordinate EU-wide responses to multinational breaches.
In the event of such a breach, the Commission would be able to lead
a team of national authorities to ensure a more effective process
for dealing with them, saving national resources and better
protecting the consumer. The Commission is also publishing new
guidance to clarify the application of the Unfair Commercial
Practices Directive. Any online platform that qualifies as a
'trader' under the Directive must now state clearly that
the rules on unfair commercial practices do not apply to
individuals selling goods in a private capacity. Traders must also
ensure that their own practices comply with EU consumer law. In
addition, search engines must show clearly where advertising
placements have been paid for and are not 'natural' search
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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On January 16th 2016, Implementation Day was announced. This marks the day on which the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran implemented its agreed nuclear-related commitments contained in the JCPOA.
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