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A Digital Single Market


EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker made the digital single market central to his administration, and has published his strategy for achieving it. In his view, the EU is held back by fragmentation in law and practices across the continent and this restricts businesses. The EU estimates that by removing regulatory barriers and moving from 28 national markets to a single one could contribute €415 billion per year to the EU economy and create 3.8 million jobs.

The strategy details a number of actions the Commission plans to take by the end of next year to work towards a digital single market. The strategy has three broad areas:

(i) Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe

(ii) Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish

(iii) Maximising the growth potential of the economy

The Commission will make e-commerce across Europe far easier to conduct. There will be harmonised EU rules on contracts and consumer protection. The changes will mean businesses face less obstacles to trading in other European nations. The Commission intends to reduce the burden of complying with multiple VAT regimes by introducing single electronic registration and payment for businesses and bring in a common VAT threshold to help start-up businesses sell their products online. Many of the changes are aimed at smaller businesses, which at the moment are far less able to trade at a pan-European level. Moreover, president Juncker is steering Commission policy in a business friendly direction.

The second strand of the strategy deals with data protection – but it only mentions that the aim of the digital single market strategy is to “reinforce trust and security in digital services, notably concerning the handling of personal data”. The strategy claims that the EU Data Protection Regulation should be adopted by the end of 2015. The DMA still believes that early 2016 is more realistic, and states that upon adoption of the regulation the Commission will begin reviewing the E-Privacy Directive (the piece of European law which informs the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations legislation).

The third and perhaps most intangible piece of the strategy, maximising growth, focuses on the promotion of the free flow of data and of an inclusive digital society. The Commission claims that the introduction of new services is hindered by restrictions on either where data is located or how it can be accessed. The EU wishes to promote innovation in this area, as the restrictions have nothing to do with protecting personal data.

The EU Commission intends to deliver all the actions in the report by the end of 2016. The DMA will be carefully monitoring the progress of the digital single market and keeping members updated on changes that will affect their business.

The DMA will publish an update on the EU Data Protection Regulation later this week.

Click here to visit the data protection toolkit.

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