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May 6, 2015updated 30 Aug 2016 12:34pm

European Commission unveils ‘Digital Single Market’ plan

Proposals aim to "tear down regulatory walls".

By Alexander Sword

The European Commission (EC) has unveiled its 16 key actions for a Digital Single Market in the European Union (EU).

The Digital Single Market Strategy is based on three pillars: "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" and "maximising the growth potential of the digital economy".

The stated aim of the proposals, which the EC has pledged to deliver by the end of 2016, is to remove regulatory barriers and "finally move from 28 national markets to a single one."

As part of the first pillar, the Commission will aim to make cross-border e-commerce easier, enforce consumer rules more consistently and work towards more efficient parcel delivery. It will also try to end "unjustified" geo-blocking where online sellers deny consumers access based on location, to provide a modern copyright law, review the Satellite and Cable Directive and reduce the administrative burdens of differing VAT regimes.

The recently launched anti-trust action against Google is referenced in Pillar 5, with the stated aim being to "identify potential competition concerns affecting European e-commerce markets."

Under the second pillar, the EC will aim to overhaul telecoms rules, review the audiovisual media framework and analyse the role of online platforms in the market. It also aims to build trust in data privacy and propose partnerships with the cybersecurity industry.

Finally, the EC plans proposals to promote the free movement of data in the EU, define priorities for standards and interoperability in areas such as health and help provide citizens with the skills to succeed in an "inclusive digital society."

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Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Today, we lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future. I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups. I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe.

"Exactly a year ago, I promised to make a fully Digital Single Market one of my top priorities. Today, we are making good on that promise. The 16 steps of our Digital Single Market Strategy will help make the Single Market fit for a digital age."

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: "Our Strategy is an ambitious and necessary programme of initiatives that target areas where the EU can make a real difference. They prepare Europe to reap the benefits of a digital future."

"They will give people and companies the online freedoms to profit fully from Europe’s huge internal market. The initiatives are inter-linked and reinforce each other. They must be delivered quickly to better help to create jobs and growth. The Strategy is our starting point, not the finishing line."

Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger said: "Our economies and societies are going digital. Future prosperity will depend largely on how well we master this transition.

"Europe has strengths to build on, but also homework to do, in particular to make sure its industries adapt, and its citizens make full use of the potential of new digital services and goods. We have to prepare for a modern society and will table proposals balancing the interests of consumers and industry."

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