Earlier this week, the European Parliament approved its recommendations to boost the digital single market by 551 to 88, with 39 abstentions. The objectives of the Parliament are as follows:
- End unjustified geo-blocking practices, so as to improve EU consumers' access to goods and services. MEPs welcome the proposal on cross-border portability of online content services “as a first step” in this direction,
- Ensure equivalent and future-proof consumer protection, regardless of whether digital content is purchased online or offline,
- Find innovative solutions on cross-border parcel delivery to improve services and lower costs,
- Remove barriers to SMEs, start-ups and scale-ups and seize the opportunities based on new ICT technologies, such as Big Data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things or 3D-printing; an innovation-friendly policy towards online platforms (e.g. search engines, app stores) that facilitates market entry should be maintained, and
- Review the ePrivacy directive to ensure consistency of its provisions with the new EU data protection rules.
Commenting on the recommendations, the Internal Market co-rapporteur rapporteur Evelyne Gebhardt (S&D, DE) stated that; "We have ensured that this report on the digitisation of the EU economy, society and public administrations determines legislative and non-legislative action to benefit consumers and to preserve Europe’s competitive social market economies”
Adding to the discussion European Parliament’s Industry Committee co-rapporteur Kaja Kallas (ALDE, ET) stated that “Europe has already missed two waves of innovation. First social networks, then the sharing economy. If we don't want to miss the next wave, we have to look to the Internet of Things, Big Data and machine-to-machine communication. They can radically transform our economy and our legislation needs to reflect that.”
Parliament is also taking a step towards regulating the different national approaches taken so far against what is known as the ‘uberisation’ of the economy. This term roughly refers to the sharing economy which proposes new business models for providing services to customers, similar to the operating mechanisms of Uber or Airbnb. The European Parliaments' aim is to take the side of the consumers to protect them in this new form of economy and also to make sure the consumer related rules are being correctly enforced in the digital economy.
Other topics addressed in the resolution include copyright, telecoms, VAT rules, audio-visual media, e-skills, e-government, and employment rights.
Meanwhile, Miriam Dalli (S&D, UK), as a member of the Industry Committee, put forward a number of amendments to the report – including on the need to end geo-blocking, which she described as “an unjust practice” she further stated that “existent barriers online mean that our citizens are missing out on buying the goods and services they want and self-employed people and start-ups are unable to tap into the wider market. Entrepreneurs from all member states need to be provided with the possibility to sell their products on Europe’s online marketplaces. Practices that forbid our entrepreneurs from registering and selling on specific online marketplaces should not be allowed.”
This market friendly move would certainly please the entrepreneurs which are seizing the market opportunities presented by the widespread availability of the technology. In particular, in a point where certain countries are travelling in the opposite direction, the European Parliament is seeming to lead the way in taking the consumers’ side in the battle.