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European Digital Single Market plans announced


The European Commission has unveiled plans to unify a raft of digital commercial services, covering online shopping, VAT rates, and delivery, to promote cross-border ecommerce, claiming an extra £300bn of pan-European GDP could be created annually.
Under the title Digital Single Market, the proposals unveiled earlier this week (6 May) will become legislative initiatives by the end of 2016.

Everything from national VAT rates to broadband spectrum allocation will come under the auspices of the Digital Single Market. It will also be looking at possible VAT exemptions for microbusinesses engaging in cross-border digital trade.

“The aim of the digital single market is to tear down regulatory walls and finally move from 28 national markets to a single one,” said the commission.

Currently, only 15% of online shoppers in the EU buy something in another country, according to commission figures, while only 7% of small and medium-sized businesses sell across national borders.

Responding to the Digital Single Market proposals, Vicky Ford MEP, who chairs the European Conservatives and Reformists Group’s DSM policy group, said: “The ambition in this strategy is good in some parts and needs some work in others. Grand plans have stalled in the past so the Commission is right to focus much of its attention on breaking down barriers and removing unnecessary red tape. However, there is much more that entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers have suggested we could do to make trade easier and I would like to see many more suggestions from end users taken up in this area.”

“The Commission must take care to ensure that any new laws are well designed and details are properly considered. Old-style one size fits all legislation or heavy handed EU bans would hit investor confidence and risk setting back the progress that has been made in many member states and in many parts of the digital sector in Europe.”

Niklas Hedin, CEO of logistics software company Centiro, stressed the importance of retailers making sure they are ready for the changes that might be brought in under the Digital Single Market plan.

“It’s crucial for retailers to create an agile carrier network if they are to take advantage of the proposed Digital Single Market for Europe. This opportunity for easier cross-border e-commerce will be squandered if retailers fail to provide delivery options for customers from other European Union countries.

“You can’t rely too heavily on a single delivery firm: concentrate on providing the same level of service and options for customers in every country around the world. In future this could be ordering a product online in one country, changing delivery options on the move and requesting an item to be delivered in another country on the other side of Europe: the days of retailers having a fairly static number of delivery destinations could soon be gone. To succeed in 2015, retailers must be confident with shipping a wide variety of goods all around the world with higher precision, but this is putting greater pressure on order processing systems and delivery networks than ever before.

“In this new environment, retailers must have the capability to bring new suppliers in quickly to meet demand and take ownership of the last mile customer experience. Working with a wider range of international carriers can allow retailers to become international brands in a matter of weeks, while also giving them greater visibility and control over performance and cost. The clock is ticking: retailers must get a flexible, agile carrier network in place by the end of next year to capitalise on the opportunities of a single European Digital Economy.”

The three main pillars of the Digital Single Market are:

  • Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe
  • Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish
  • Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy

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