Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Towards an - EP resolution on completing the internal market for e-commerce

Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the completion of the internal market for e-commerce. It calls upon the European Commission to take legislative and non-legislative means to:
- counteract fragmentation of the on-line internal market;
- complete the Internal Market by e-commerce;
- enhance users' legal protection in cross-border e-commerce; and
- enhance the e-confidence of consumers and businesses.

In a press release, in particular the idea of introducing a European 'trust mark' for online traders and goods is emphasised.

In relation to the current discussion on the further development of European Contract Law, some interesting questions present themselves when considering the approach suggested by the EP, which entails the development of a 'single legal instrument combining the various texts currently in force in order to clarify the rules applicable to e-commerce' (no. 80). How would such an instrument relate to other initiatives that affect B2C contracts on the internet? It would of course be helpful if the level of consumer protection provided by such an instrument corresponded to other (future) instruments governing e-contracts, such as the proposed Directive on Consumer Rights and perhaps an optional instrument on European contract law (which is considered in the Commission's Green paper on policy options for this field, on which this blog reported earlier). And how would all of these measures relate to the political CFR that is currently being drafted? Possibly, the drafters of the Resolution had such matters of coordination in mind when indicating that a 'horizontal approach' would be called for, involving 'effective coordination between Directorates-General' (no. 6).

Furthermore, IP experts will be happy to see that the EP observes that the 'consistent enforcement of copyright laws in the area of e-commerce' should not be undermined by the initiatives taken (no. 68, no. 83).

Finally, the EP promotes the protection of fundamental rights of citizens/consumers on the European digital market, for instance in regard to privacy and non-discrimination (no. 32, no. 46). This seems to be in line with Commissioner Reding's views on the development of the digital market (see an earlier post on this). In this context, the EP refers to a previous report, in which it called for the 'creation of a European charter of citizens' and consumers' rights in the digital environment' and the development of 'a "fifth freedom" permitting the free circulation of content and knowledge' (no. 99).

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