How consumers will benefit from the new Digital single market?
With the arrival of the new Commission in 2014, there is a great opposition in Europe against the “digital colonization” came from the United States. Thus, the European Commission identified the completion of the digital single market as one of its 10 policy priorities which proved that the European Union has realized the importance of adapting the single market to the digital age, to break down regulatory barriers and transform the 28 national markets into a single one. Subsequently, the first beneficiary of this policy will be the consumer.
What is the Digital Single Market?
The European Union issued on 6th of May 2015 an executive strategy for a Digital Single Market, supported by the commissioners Günther Oettinger (Digital Economy and Society) and Andrus Ansip (Digital Single Market). The Digital single market is identified as a place where the free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and where individuals and Businesses can access and exercise activities online in fair competition. A high level of protection of personal data is also insured, regardless of nationality or place of residence. Essentially, the Digital single market can create opportunities for new startups and allow existing businesses to grow and take advantage of a market of over 500 million people.
Consumers still face several problems online. Many people in Europe remain reluctant to engage in online activities that will potentially facilitate their daily lives. Although, 3/4 of Europeans regularly used the Internet in 2014, only 15% bought products from another country online store. In addition, only 7% of SMEs are a selling in a country different from their own. One reason that makes consumers stop buying online from the site of another Member State is the high cost of delivery often exceeding 5 times the cost of purchases made within the country of residence. The harmonization of consumer’s rights and contract rules will encourage companies to sell online abroad and strengthen consumer confidence. Unfortunately, to this moment only a small part of consumer protection rules has been harmonized, such as the withdrawal period (14 days minimum) or the type information to be provided to the consumer prior to the conclusion of the contract.
Limiting the geographical blocking
The Digital single market will end the geographical blocking. It is identified as the practice of restricting access to Internet content based upon the user’s geographical location. It limits the choice of consumers and undermines their confidence in the internal market. While the geoblocking may be necessary in some cases, particularly when it must comply with legislation or resulting from restrictions imposed by suppliers, geoblocking caused by business practices is qualified as discrimination against consumers.
On 9 December 2015, the European Commission proposed the adoption of a regulation on crossborder portability of online content and services aimed at removing restrictions in order to allow EU residents to travel with the digital content they have purchased or subscribed to in their countries of origin. Crossborder portability, a new right for European consumers should become reality in 2017, the same year when will also be abolished the roaming charges (or “roaming”) in the EU.
Etudiant en Master II Droit de l’économie numérique, je suis intéressé par les tendances actuelles du numérique et par l’impact que celles-ci ont sur le monde juridique, notamment du point de vue du droit de l’Union européenne.