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IRIS 2012-3:1/6

European Commission

Communication on a Coherent Framework for E-Commerce and Online Services

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Christina Angelopoulos

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 11 January 2012, the European Commission adopted the Communication on e-commerce and other online services announced in the Digital Agenda and the Single Market Act. The Communication was released after an in-depth public consultation and in response to the request from the European Council to submit a roadmap for the completion of the Digital Single Market by 2012.

The Communication begins with pointing out the enormous benefits Europeans have derived from the development of electronic commerce. The internet has revolutionised the everyday lives in a way comparable to the industrial revolution; the internet economy creates 2.6 jobs for every "off-line" job lost, while the gains brought by lower online prices and a wider choice of available products and services are estimated at EUR 11.7 billion, equivalent to 0.12 % of European GDP. However the Digital Single Market is far from reaching full potential.

The Communication accordingly presents an action plan of 16 targeted initiatives aimed at doubling the share of e-commerce in retail sales and that of the internet sector in European GDP by 2015. By that year online trade and services could account for more than 20% of growth and net job creation in some member states. Of the main actions promised, the following practical commitments stand out as particularly relevant to the audiovisual sector:

- to examine the possibility of a European private copying initiative within 2013 and complete a review of the Copyright Directive within 2012. The Commission also intends to report on the outcome of the consultation on the online distribution of audiovisual works and the implications of the ECJ’s “Premier League” ruling (see IRIS 2011-9/2);

- to develop, through dialogue with the stakeholders, codes of good conduct, good practice guides and guidelines giving consumers access to transparent and reliable information allowing them to more easily compare the prices, the quality and the sustainability of goods and services;

- to adopt, by 2012, a European Consumer Agenda putting forward a strategy and initiatives to place consumers at the heart of the Single Market, including digital issues, in particular by empowering consumers and offering appropriate protection of their rights;

- to develop a strategy for the integration of the markets for payments by card, internet or mobile phone, on the basis of a Green Paper adopted at the same time as this Communication with the aim of (i) assessing the barriers to entry and competition on these markets and proposing legislative action where necessary, (ii) making sure that these payment services are transparent for consumers and sellers, (iii) improving and accelerating the standardisation and interoperability of payments by card, internet or mobile phone, and (iv) increasing the level of security of payments and data protection. The Commission will present the conclusions of this exercise and the next stages by mid-2012;

- to adopt, by 2012, a horizontal initiative on notice and action procedures in order to combat the dissemination of products and services which are counterfeit, pirated or otherwise violate intellectual property rights.

Commission Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, “A coherent framework for building trust in the Digital Single Market for e-commerce and online services”, COM(2011) 942 EN