As part of the European Digital Strategy, the European Commission has announced a Digital Services Act package to strengthen the Single Market for digital services and foster innovation and competitiveness of the European online environment.

image evoking the wealth of services available online

Why is the European Commission proposing a new Digital Services Act Package?

The legal framework for digital services has been unchanged since the adoption of the e-Commerce Directive in the year 2000. Ever since, this Directive has been the foundational cornerstone for regulating digital services in the European Union.

However, the online world and the daily use of digital means are changing every day. Over the last 20 years, many new ways to communicate, shop or access information online have been developed, and those ways are constantly evolving. Online platforms have brought significant benefits for consumers and innovation, as well as  wide-ranging efficiencies in the European Union’s internal market. These online platforms facilitate cross-border trading within and outside the Union and open entirely new business opportunities to a variety of European businesses and traders by facilitating their expansion and access to new markets

Although new services, technologies and business models have brought many opportunities in the daily life of European citizens, they have also created new risks to citizens and society at large, exposing them to a new range of illegal goods, activities or content.

Furthermore, many online businesses have struggled with systematic problems familiar to the platform economy regarding contestability, fairness and the possibility of market entry. Large online platforms are able to control increasingly important platform ecosystems in the digital economy. Typically, they feature an ability to connect many businesses with many consumers through their services that, in turn, allows them to leverage their advantages, such as their access to large amounts of data, from one area of their activity to improve or develop new services in adjacent markets.

The European Single Market therefore requires a modern legal framework to ensure the safety of users online and to allow innovative digital businesses to grow, while respecting the basic principles underpinning the current legal framework of the e-Commerce Directive.

What is the Digital Services Act package?

The new Digital Services Act package should modernise the current legal framework for digital services by means of two main pillars:

First, the Commission would propose clear rules framing the responsibilities of digital services to address the risks faced by their users and to protect their rights. The legal obligations would ensure a modern system of cooperation for the supervision of platforms and guarantee effective enforcement.

Second, the Digital Services Act package would propose ex ante rules covering large online platforms acting as gatekeepers, which now set the rules of the game for their users and their competitors. The initiative should ensure that those platforms behave fairly and can be challenged by new entrants and existing competitors, so that consumers have the widest choice and the Single Market remains competitive and open to innovations.

As a part of a robust and active consultation process, the Commission has initiated a public consultation to support the work in analysing and collecting evidence for scoping the specific issues that may require an EU-level intervention. All European and non-European citizens and organisations are welcome to contribute to this consultation. The consultation will be open until 8 September 2020. 

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