Reflecting on 2013: e-regulations

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Ecommerce Europe issued a position paper on e-regulations in 2013. This article summarises the most prominent conclusions of this paper.

Generally speaking, the E-Regulations position paper sets out Ecommerce Europe’s views on how to achieve a well-functioning Digital Single Market. It welcomes the efforts of the European Commission in the shape of the e-Commerce Action Plan and the Retail Action Plan and calls for self-regulation by the stakeholders instead of more regulation. Coordination from the top level is necessary: the European e-commerce market is still fragmented as consumer laws, VAT rates and data protection requirements vary from country to country. For a market that focusses on cross-border sales by nature, this is problematic. For business, especially SMEs, achieving growth is hampered by 28 different sets of rules and therefore Ecommerce Europe calls for a level playing field through harmonised regulations:

  • A common European VAT rate: there is a difference of 10 percentage points between the Member States with the lowest VAT (Luxemburg at 15%) and the ones with the highest VAT (Sweden and Denmark at 25%). This results in significant price differences and therefore disturbs the completion of the Digital Single Market.
  • In 2013, the Consumer Rights Directive (or CRD) has been a hot topic in Brussels. Ecommerce Europe welcomes the Commissions efforts to have an up-to-date pan European consumer rights scheme as this creates a predictable environment – 1 set of rules for 500 million consumers – and fosters trust. Strengthening consumer rights, however, should not be at the cost of a viable business environment. Certain clauses in the proposal have sharp edges that are detrimental to the industry. The transposition date for the CRD is 13 December 2013. Ecommerce Europe will keep its eyes open in 2014, as that will be the year when the effects of the CRD are known.
  • The most controversial legislative proposal of 2013 has arguably been the Data Protection Regulation (or DPR). Currently stalled in the Council of Ministers, the Data Protection Regulation foresees a harmonised set of rules on data protection. Political significance was increased after the revelations of Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. Moreover, the legislative proposal is a pet project of Vice-President Reding, whose success will be partly measured by the passing of the DPR. Ecommerce Europe recognises the importance of strict rules on privacy with the aim to foster trust. However, the current proposal contains detrimental clauses to the e-commerce industry – a narrow interpretation on personal data, severe fines to mention a few.

Legislation that will be of interest to e-regulations in 2014 are trust mark schemes, electronic identification schemes and, continued from above, data protection. Ecommerce Europe is happy to share its views as it represents more than 4000 companies in various Member States. E-commerce is a sector that is growing significantly and therefore can contribute to the economic recovery of Europe. In times like these, legislation should be aimed at maintaining and improving the well-being of citizens. The e-commerce industry is key in this respect.

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