EU-Commission, E-Commerce Package, IP/16/1887, 25 May 2016

EU: Proposal for New E-Commerce Rules for Digital Single Market

On 25 May 2016, the EU-Commission presented an e-commerce package proposing measures which will affect consumers and companies buying and selling products and Services. The EU-Commission advocates "A comprehensive approach to stimulating cross-border e-commerce for Europe's citizens and businesses" in a Communication and proposes three new Regulations:

  • A Regulation on addressing geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers' nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market (1.);
  • A Regulation on cross-border parcel delivery Services (2.);
  • A Regulation on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws (3.).

1. Preventing geoblocking and other forms of discrimination based on nationality or place of residence

The EU-Commission is proposing this Regulation to ensure that consumers seeking to buy products and services in another EU country, be it online or in person, are not discriminated against in terms of access to prices, sales or payment conditions, unless this is objectively justified for reasons such as VAT or certain public interest legal provisions.

When a consumer enters a shop in another EU country, the owner does not ask for the consumer’s ID in order to accept a purchase or to adjust the price or conditions. But in the online world, all too often consumers are blocked from accessing offers in other countries for example by re-routing the consumer back to a country-specific website, or asking to pay with a debit or credit card from a certain country. Such discrimination has no place in the Single Market.

While the principle of non-discrimination is already established under the Services Directive and the EU-Commission has applied it in services sectors such as car rental companies or amusement parks, companies and consumers alike will benefit from more legal certainty about which practices are allowed and which ones are not. The Regulation will provide this legal certainty and enforceability for products and services online or offline.

To avoid introducing disproportionate burden on companies, the Regulation does not impose an obligation to deliver across the EU and exempts small businesses that fall under a national VAT threshold from certain provisions.

2. Making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient

This proposed Regulation is intended to increase price transparency and regulatory oversight of cross-border parcel delivery services so that consumers and retailers can benefit from affordable deliveries and convenient return options even to and from peripheral regions.

Consumers and small businesses complain that problems with parcel delivery, in particular high delivery charges in cross-border shippings, prevent them from selling or buying more across the EU. Prices charged by postal operators to deliver a small parcel to another Member State are often up to 5 times higher than domestic prices, without a clear correlation to the actual costs.

This Regulation will foster competition by introducing greater price transparency. The EU-Commission is not proposing a cap on delivery prices. Price regulation is only a means of last resort, where competition does not bring satisfactory results. The EU-Commission will take stock of progress made in 2019 and assess if further measures are necessary.

The Regulation will give national postal regulators the data they need to monitor cross-border markets and check the affordability and cost-orientation of prices. It will also encourage competition by requiring transparent and non-discriminatory third-party access to cross-border parcel delivery services and infrastructure. The EU-Commission will publish public listed prices of universal service providers to increase peer competition and tariff transparency.

The proposal complements self-regulatory initiatives taken by postal operators to improve the quality and convenience of cross-border parcel delivery services.

3. Increasing consumer trust in e-commerce

The proposed revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation will give more powers to national authorities to better enforce consumer rights. They will be able to:
check if websites geo-block consumers or offer after-sales conditions not respecting EU rules (e.g. withdrawal rights);
order the immediate take-down of websites hosting scams;
request information from domain registrars and banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader.

In case of EU-wide breaches of consumer rights, the EU-Commission will be able to coordinate common actions with national enforcement authorities to stop these practices. It will ensure a swifter protection of consumers, while saving time and resources for Member States and businesses.

The EU-Commission is also publishing updated guidance on unfair commercial practices to respond among others to the challenges presented by the digital world. It clarifies the application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. For instance, any online platform that qualifies as a "trader" and promotes or sells goods, services or digital content to consumers must make sure that its own commercial practices fully comply with EU consumer law. Platforms must state clearly that rules on unfair commercial practices do not apply to private persons selling goods, and search engines would be required to clearly distinguish paid placements from natural search results.

The revised Guidance also incorporates two sets of self-regulatory principles agreed among stakeholders: one will support comparison tools to better comply with the Directive and the other will help the enforcement of unfair commercial practices rules against misleading and unfounded environmental claims.


EU-Commission, Communication "A comprehensive approach to stimulating cross-border e-Commerce for Europe's citizens and businesses", COM(2016) 320 final, 25 May 2016

EU-Commission, Proposal for a Regulation on geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customer's nationality, place of residence or place of Establishment within the internal market, COM(2016) 289 final, 25 May 2016

EU-Commission, Proposal for a Regulation on Cross-Border Parcel Delivery Services, COM(2016) 285 final, 25 May 2016

EU-Commission, Proposal for a revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation, COM(2016) 283 final, 25 May 2016

EU-Commission, "Commission proposes new e-commerce rules to help consumers and companies reap full benefit of Single Market", Press Release IP/16/1887, 25 May 2016

Verlag Dr. Otto Schmidt vom 30.05.2016 15:31

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