The Service Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market) needed to be fully implemented by the Member States by 28 December 2009.
The Services Directive applies to the provision of a wide range of services – to private individuals and businesses – barring a few specific exceptions. For example, it covers:
The Services Directive does not apply to the following services, which are explicitly excluded:
In any event, national rules and regulations relating to these excluded services have to comply with other rules of Community law, in particular with the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services as guaranteed in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The Services Directive facilitates the establishment of a business in a Member State. This concerns cases in which a legal or a natural person intends to establish in another country. But it also benefits to providers who want to establish in their own Member State, as they will take advantage of simplified rules and procedures. Under a general obligation for Member States to simplify procedures and formalities some very specific obligations are established by the Directive:
The Services Directive aims at improving the regulatory environment for service providers who want to supply their services across borders to other Member States, without setting up an establishment there. In this respect, the Services Directive lays down the “freedom to provide services” clause whereby Member States should, in principle, not impose their national requirements on incoming service providers. Member States are thus generally prohibited from imposing restrictions upon incoming service providers. However, certain requirements can still be imposed under very limited circumstances, i.e. when they are non-discriminatory, justified for reasons of public policy, public security, public health or the protection of the environment and do not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve their objective.
Furthermore, the “freedom to provide services” clause is also assorted with a number of general derogations. These include, among other, matters covered by Directive 96/71/EC on posting of workers and matters covered by Title II of Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications.
For those requirements that Member States are still allowed to impose on incoming service providers, service providers will have to be able to obtain all relevant information and complete all procedures and formalities through the ”points of single contact”, at a distance and by electronic means.
The concept of “recipient” does not only cover consumers but also businesses who want to use services in the course of their activities. To enhance the rights of recipients and strengthen their confidence in the internal market, the Services Directive requires Member States to:
List of bodies designated by the Member States to provide information and assistance to service recipients seeking to receive services from providers in other Member States (“List of Article 21 bodies ”).
The Services Directive obliges Member States to cooperate with each other and give mutual assistance in the supervision of service providers. This will ensure effective supervision of service providers while at the same time providing that such supervision does not lead to additional and unjustified obstacles for service providers.
Competent authorities of different Member States have to exchange information with each other and carry out checks, inspections and investigations upon request. They also have to send an alert to other Member States in cases relating to a service activity that could cause serious damage to the health or safety of persons or to the environment. For this purpose the Commission in cooperation with Member States established an electronic system for the exchange of information (IMI).