17 December 2015

Commission announces first raft of legislation under Digital Single Market Strategy

Following the May 2015 announcement of its Digital Single Market Strategy (DSMS), on 9 December 2015 the European Commission published a number of legislative proposals intended to remove barriers to e-commerce and the distribution of online content in the internal market. The legislative proposals are discussed in two communications by the Commission, the first on copyright and the second on digital contracts and e-commerce.

The first Commission communication, on copyright, Towards a modern, more European copyright framework, contains an action plan made up of four “complementary pillars”:

  1. widening online access to content across the EU;
  2. adapting exceptions to copyright rules to a digital and cross-border environment;
  3. creating a fair marketplace for copyright; and
  4. providing an effective and balanced enforcement system.

As a first step in this action plan, the Commission has proposed a regulation on ensuring the cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market.  This will allow users of online content services to make use of their subscriptions even while they are in other Member States.

The second communication, on digital contracts and e-commerce, Digital contracts for Europe - Unleashing the potential of e-commerce, aims to meet the Commission's DSMS objective of ensuring “better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe”. The communication announces two directives which will harmonise the rights and obligations of consumers when entering into contracts for the supply of digital content and the online sale of goods.

Complete details of the directives are contained in two proposals by the Commission. The first proposal is for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content, which will include provisions on the conformity of digital content with contracts, remedies available to consumers where content does not so conform and rights to terminate long term contracts. The second proposal is for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sale of goods. Again, the directive will lay down rules on conformity of goods and remedies available.

The new regulation and two new directives are only the first step in the DSMS. It remains to be seen what the European Parliament and Council will make of the proposals, as well as what further legislative proposals lie in store from the Commission.

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