Digital market must put consumers and small businesses first

6 May 2015

Digital market must put consumers and small businesses first

European Commissioner Andrus Ansip today published his strategy for the Digital Internal Market, his major area of responsibility. SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong was critical of the initiative. ‘It’s mainly major corporations which have been urging this, but the strategy is of less importance to the consumer and to smaller firms,’ he said, adding that ‘these are precisely the interests which in this matter it is my task to secure. We should not be reducing protection for the consumer and the small firm must not be saddled with all sorts of bureaucratic rules.’

The European Commission has announced its intention to revise both consumer law and contract law in relation to online purchases, but De Jong warned that ‘for people’s confidence it’s important that one’s rights online are no weaker than those which apply in an ordinary shop. Basic rights when making online purchases must therefore be laid down at EU level, provided the member states retain the right to take stronger measures at national level.’ In addition, the Commission wants to improve the implementation of the new rule that when you buy digital products on line the rate of VAT in the state in which the customer resides must apply, so that it becomes more straightforward for online suppliers to apply it. ‘It’s a good thing that the Commission is aware of the problems which this rule creates for the small firm,’ says De Jong, ‘but in my view the only real solution would be to waive this regulation completely for “micro-enterprises”, for firms employing fewer than ten workers.’

In addition Brussels wants to increase competition in the parcel post sector. ‘The Commission seems still to be putting its faith in the market, despite the fact that there are areas where parcel delivery simply can’t be made profitable. The SP wants everyone to have access to affordable parcel services. Where the market does not supply these, the state must jump in. Everyone has a right to post and parcel post. The member states must work together more intensively in order to guarantee that these are affordable and accessible to all.’

In the framework of the digital market, the Commission is seeking to put an end to “geo-blocking”, the practice of restricting access to content based upon the user's geographical location. ´Nobody can understand why you can’t access, for example, Dutch programmes from other member states. It’s irritating to the consumer when what’s on offer in one member state isn’t available to people in another. That’s rather uncharacteristic of our times and I will happily cooperate in combatting such practices.’

During the last few months tough negotiations have taken place on matters of importance to the digital internal market, such as Internet neutrality and the abolition of roaming costs. ‘Without neutrality,’ explains De Jong, ‘Internet freedom, as well as innovation and competition between online services will be near enough impossible. The SP’s efforts will therefore be aimed at ensuring that this will be guaranteed throughout the EU.’

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