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EU review of Ecommerce Directive



United Kingdom

The review of the Ecommerce Directive is part of the European Commission's Digital Agenda.

This alert was featured in Tech Bytes, our technology law newsletter.

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The European Commission was due to announce this month its action plan for updating the Ecommerce Directive and other measures to remove barriers to cross-border ecommerce, but the announcement will now be delayed until December 2011.

The action plan is being formulated in response to a wide-ranging consultation, covering issues including:

  • The rule under the Ecommerce Directive that service providers should be regulated by the laws of their home Member State, and the current exemption from this rule that applies to business-to-consumer transactions
  • The effectiveness of on-line dispute settlement systems
  • The safe harbour rules for internet intermediaries
  • The availability of suitable payment schemes, particularly for low value online consumer transactions

The Commission is concerned that the take-up of ecommerce across the EU as a whole is not as high as it had hoped. In particular, the Commission wants to facilitate an increase in the proportion of EU online businesses that engage in cross-border ecommerce. According to a recent study commissioned by the European Parliament, there are significant variations across EU Member States in terms of the use of the internet as a retail channel. Between 2005 and 2010, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands saw increases of over 40% in the number of individuals making online purchases. At the same time, 13 Member States saw an increase of less than 10%. Over the EU as a whole:

  • Only 14% of enterprises sold goods or services via the internet, or other networks (such as EDI) in 2010, and this figure has changed little over the last 5 years
  • Only 26% of online businesses fulfil ecommerce orders from other Member States,

but again, these figures mask significant variations between Member States.

The review of the Ecommerce Directive is part of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda, one of the objectives of which is to create a “Digital Single Market” by removing barriers that continue to block the free flow of online services and entertainment across national borders.

For previous Fieldfisher news reports on various European Commission workstreams aimed at achieving a Digital Single Market, please click on the links below:

The European Commission's Report on a Single market for Intellectual Property Rights: an analysis of the key points

Electronic signatures and eID: European Commission consultation

Digital Agenda - Commission consults on public sector data

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