The European Commission is proposing the adoption of a “Digital Single Market Strategy” for all the 28 member countries of the European Union by the end of 2016. The general plan is to abolish national regulatory walls on e-commerce, to create a level playing field for innovative digital networks in the EU, and to provide better access to digital goods and services for consumers and businesses. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Commission, said he wants consumers to get “the best deals” and businesses to access the widest market.
Among the 16 planned initiatives on the table, the Commission wants to harmonize rules on contracts and consumer protection, while reducing the burden that businesses face from the different VAT regimes in the various countries. It wants to make the delivery of parcels more efficient and affordable, and put an end to unjustified geo-blocking.
To identify potential competition concerns in the e-commerce market, the Commission has launched an anti-trust investigation into the e-commerce sector of the EU. It will also carry out a comprehensive analysis of search engines, social media and other online platforms.
The Commission points out that only 15 percent of the customers in the EU shop from websites based in other EU countries, and that only 7 percent of the small and medium-sized enterprises sell across their national borders. According to the Commission, a fully functional digital single market would contribute €415 billion a year to the economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Whatever Brussels decides in the end will also affect national distributors of sporting goods brands, many of which are suffering from the price promotions of aggressive e-tailers in other countries. It will also affect more traditional brick-and-mortar retailers that have been investing in quality services for their customers.