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Digital Single Market must be adopted without delay, says EU parliament

MEPs pass resolution urging the EU to adopt Digital Single Market proposals and enact new protections for consumers as soon as possible

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have passed a resolution urging the European Union (EU) to table the 16 Digital Single Market initiatives announced by the European Commission (EC) in May 2015 without delay.

The parliament urged a more open approach to providing digital goods and services, and called for the EU to be more proactive in seizing on the opportunities around big data, cloud, the internet of things and 3D printing.

Its recommendations to boost the Digital Single Market were approved by 551 votes to 88, with 39 abstentions.

High on the agenda was the banning of geo-blocking practices, which prevent many EU citizens from accessing online goods and services on the basis of their IP address, postal address or country of issue of credit cards.

The resolution described this practice as “unjustified” and said it must end. MEPs supported the proposal on improving cross-border portability of online content services within the EU as a good first step, but also called for legislators to go further and ensure equivalent and future-proofed consumer protection, whether digital content was bought on or offline.

Parliament said it was concerned about differing national approaches taken by the EU member states to regulating the internet and the so-called sharing economy – adopted with great enthusiasm by the UK.

MEPs asked the EC to assess the need to enforce more consumer protection within the sharing economy and to ensure the adequacy of consumer-related rules in the digital sphere.

MEPs also called for a review of the ePrivacy directive to ensure consistency of its provisions with the new EU data protection rules.

“Europe has already missed two waves of innovation,” said industry committee co-rapporteur, Kaja Kallas. “First social networks, then the sharing economy. If we don’t want to miss the next wave, we have to look to the internet of things, big data and machine-to-machine communication.

“They can radically transform our economy – and our legislation needs to reflect that.”

Open to interpretation

Mike Weston, CEO of data science firm Profusion, said that providing a unified legislative and policy framework across the EU was essential to driving innovation in the tech industry, but warned that despite the European Parliament’s resolution, such a framework seemed further away than ever.

“The EU’s new data protection legislation is riddled with exceptions and clauses that can be interpreted differently by each member state,” he said. “This situation is further complicated by the contrasting values placed on an individual’s right to privacy by different member states. For example, the Investigatory Powers Bill currently being considered by the UK Parliament is anathema to the integration the Digital Single Market hopes to achieve.”

Read more about the Digital Single Market

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Weston said he saw the recommendation that public administrations should have open data by default as one of the more exciting proposals, but said the EC would have to provide clarity on how that data was managed.

“This becomes ever more significant in the wake of Safe Harbour and the upcoming Microsoft Ireland case,” he added.

The resolution will feed directly into the 16 initiatives due to be delivered by the EC by the end of 2016. .......................................

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