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New rules should underpin, not undermine, the digital economy

25 May 2016

New rules should underpin, not undermine, the digital economy

Plans to force online retailers to open their websites to customers across the EU could reduce consumer choice, ECR MEPs have warned

Plans to force online retailers to open their websites to customers across the EU could reduce consumer choice, ECR MEPs have warned

The European Commission today published a raft of proposals covering online sales and Internet audio visual services.

Conservatives welcomed the drive to make the digital single market fit for purpose but expressed concern about planned legislation which would prevent online retailers
denying consumers in one country access to a site in another.

Internal Market committee chair Vicky Ford said: “In the traditional world we don’t demand that retailers offer the same product at the same price in every market, so why should we try to do so online? Despite what the Commission is saying, many retailers are concerned this could be the consequence of the proposal.

“We must not put an unnecessary handbrake on the digital economy. We have to ensure any international legislation underpins, not undermines, it.”

ECR internal market committee spokesman Dan Dalton feared the measure would reduce consumer choice by discouraging retailers from operating online.

“The Commission misunderstands the nature of the online market,” he said. “Under the proposals, if a shop sold goods online it would have to work out whether it complied with consumer laws from all other 27 member states for very little benefit. Small businesses in particular simply would not be able to do that.”

The Commission’s package calls for more action to protect children from pornographic and violent content online. It also proposes that video on demand services such as Netflix and Amazon should be forced to carry at least 20 per cent of European content and significantly extends the scope of current legislation.

ECR culture committee spokesman Andrew Lewer MEP said: “”We already have EU legislation underpinning a single market in broadcasting. At its heart is the country of origin principle, which ensures broadcasters based in the EU only having to play by one set of rules and makes things clear and simple for business. Thus, the Commission proposal to retain this, and to make the online environment safer for children, is welcome.

“However, extending the scope of the regulation to video sharing platforms and home videos could have unintended consequences. And imposing outdated quotas on the amount of European content is simply an example of Commission cultural imperialism.”

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