On 6 May 2015, the European Commission published its Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe. The Strategy sets out a total of 16 initiatives under 3 pillars (based upon key areas for action identified by the Commission earlier this year) which lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future. The three pillars are:
- 1. Better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe
Focusing on the need to provide businesses, particularly entrepreneurs, with new opportunities to scale up across Europe, the Commission seeks with this pillar to break down existing obstacles which prevent cross-border online activity.
A particular area of focus is harmonising laws on consumer protection, contract and VAT so that businesses do not face the prohibitive cost of complying with 28 different national regimes when they sell goods and services online. The Commission also intends to look at how these laws will be enforced and consumer disputes appropriately managed.
Of equal importance is ending unjustified geo-blocking and the application of competition law in the e-commerce area. The Commission has also set initiatives to modernise copyright law and the Satellite and Cable Directive.
- Creating the right conditions for digital networks and services to flourish
Recognising that Europe’s network infrastructure is key to the Digital Single Market, with this pillar the Commission is seeking to encourage a reliable, trustworthy, high-speed and affordable network on which future digital innovations (including Cloud computing, Big Data and the Internet of Things) will be built.
Thus, a key area of focus here is reforming the regulatory regime in telecoms and audio-visual media to make these fit for purpose in the 21st century. Initiatives are also set to introduce EU frameworks for cybersecurity and data protection (some of which are already underway).
The Commission also plans to review the role of online platforms (such as search engines, social media and app stores) in the market place, recognising their importance in Europe’s digital ecosystem.
- Maximising the growth potential of our European Digital Economy
Recognising that soon all industry sectors will be digitised (and need to be for Europe to maintain its competitiveness internationally), under the third pillar the Commission is seeking to optimise Europe’s growth potential in the digital economy. This is the pillar under which the least number of initiatives have been set. Broadly they seek to set actions and standards aimed at the free flow of data and the interoperability of digital public services.
Overall, the Strategy is broad and ambitious in scope, and the Commission has set a roadmap for these initiatives to take place over the next 2 years which means progress will need to be rapid and focused.
Given the number of specific initiatives under each pillar, and the detail they contain, we will be analysing each pillar’s initiatives in more detail in three further posts over the next few days.