MEPs discuss Accessibility Act Draft Report

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On 25 January, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee of the European Parliament discussed the draft report of Rapporteur Morten Løkkegaard (ALDE, Denmark). The meeting offered MEP Løkkegaard the opportunity to present his draft report, while it also gave the opportunity for other MEPs, including the shadow rapporteurs, to give their perspective on the Report and the proposal more broadly.

In general, MEPs welcomed the clarification that MEP Løkkegaard’s report provided, and the efforts that had been made to reduce the burden on businesses from the legislation. However, several MEPs nonetheless raised concerns about further modifications that needed to be made to the text.

Issues of scope
One of the major topics of discussion was the proposed scope of the legislation. One of the major modifications made by MEP Løkkegaard in his draft report was to clarify the scope of the Proposal by replacing references to ‘e-commerce’ with the phrase ‘online marketplaces.’ Several other MEPs welcomed this clarification, including Anneleen van Bossuyt (ECR, Beglium), the shadow rapporteur for the ECR group. Despite this, Olga Sehnalová (S&D, Czech Republic), the shadow rapporteur for S&D, argued that the scope should not be diluted.

Reducing the burden on SMEs
A further point of debate was the need to reduce the burden of the legislation on businesses, and especially on SMEs. MEP Løkkegaard’s report introduced an exemption for microenterprises, as well as an exemption for SMEs from the obligation to notify market surveillance authorities in case they are unable to meet the accessibility requirements. However, some MEPs argued that this did not go far enough. For example, Vicky Ford (ECR, UK) argued that the principle of minimizing the burden of the Proposal should be applied to big businesses, as well as SMEs.

Equating accessibility with safety
A further key issue was the approach taken in the original Proposal, which gave market surveillance authorities the same powers to regulate accessibility of products as are currently used for the safety of products. MEP Løkkegaard’s report removed this principle, and therefore importantly ended the capacity for market surveillance authorities to mandate the recall of products on the grounds of accessibility.

Next Steps
Moving forward, amendments to the draft report must be submitted before the deadline of 8 February. These amendments will be considered by the IMCO committee on 6 March, and compromise amendments will be considered on 20 March. The IMCO committee will have its final vote on the file on 21 March, after which it will be scheduled for a vote in the plenary session of the European Parliament. Throughout the legislative process, Ecommerce Europe will advocate for an outcome that balances the need for accessibility against the burdens that will be imposed on the e-commerce sector.

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