Towards the end of 2020, the European Commission plans to propose the so-called “Digital Services Act Package”, which will likely encompass a revision of the existing e-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC.
European Parliament’s Initiative reports
With the proposal from the Commission expected later this year, three parliamentary committees have announced that they will present an initiative report on the file. By proposing an initiative report, the Parliamentary Committees are attempting to have a say in the upcoming proposal. Initiative reports are non-binding instruments but are used by the European Parliament to make suggestions to the European Commission and draw red lines.
The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) has announced an initiative report called “Digital Services Act: Improving the functioning of the Single Market”. On 3 April, the draft report is scheduled to be sent to translation. Consequently, on 14 July 2020, the committee is expected to vote on the initiative report. Key policymakers for the file are Rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Malta) and Shadow Rapporteurs Pablo Arias Echeverría (EPP, Spain), Alexandra Geese (Greens, Germany), Alessandra Basso (ID, Italy), Dita Charanzová (RE, Greece), Martin Schirdewan (GUE, Germany) and Eugen Jurzyca (ECR, Slovakia).
The second initiative report is proposed by the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) and is called “Digital Services Act: adapting commercial and civil law rules for commercial entities operating online”. The Rapporteur on the file is Tiemo Wölken (S&D, Germany) and the Shadow Rapporteurs are József Szájer (EPP, Hungary), Gilles Lebreton (ID, France), Angel Dzhambazki (ECR, Bulgaria) and Emmanuel Maurel (GUE, France). Between 17 and 19 March the committee hearing is scheduled on the report, followed by the discussion on the draft report on 21 April, the Committee vote on 14 June and the Plenary vote between 14 and 17 September.
The last initiative report is initiated by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). The report focuses on the “Digital Services Act and fundamental rights issues posed”. The Rapporteur for this file is Kris Peeters (EPP, Belgium) and the Shadow-Rapporteurs are Marina Kaljurand (S&D, Estonia), Patrick Breyer (Greens, Germany), Patryk Jaki (ECR, Poland) and Cornelia Ernst (GUE, Germany).
Parliamentary Committee meetings on the DSA
On 18 February, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee of the European Parliament organized a Workshop on ‘E-commerce rules fit for the digital age’. Experts in the field of e-commerce and new technologies such as artificial intelligence spoke during the workshop. Generally, the e-Commerce Directive of 2000 was considered successful in the sense that it provided many benefits to consumers and to the Single Market, by introducing transparency and contract rules. The liability exemption of the Directive was considered to be weaker as the unclarity of the rules has led to diverging policy throughout the European Union. The enforcement model of the new Digital Services Act was also discussed and Melanie Smith (Cardiff University) expressed her preference for a horizontal enforcement model like the GDPR, a simple single enforcement framework. Prabhat Agarwal, Head of Unit of E-commerce and Platforms at DG Connect (European Commission) gave an update on the Digital Services Act. Agarwal said the Commission does not only want to look at internal market, consumer safety and liability, but also at questions on competitiveness and entry barriers if you want to compete as new service with big platforms. On 20 February, the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, gave a presentation about the new initiatives in the digital sector during the joint meeting of the European Parliament’s IMCO and ITRE Committees. On platforms, Breton mentioned that he wants platforms to adapt to Europe and not the other way around. He aims to achieve this via the Digital Services Act by outlining the responsibilities for platforms that could host illegal content.
The European Commission will launch a public consultation (for three months) on the Digital Services Act in March. The legislative proposal is still expected for the fourth quarter of 2020.