Digital single market is a crucial policy in improving access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe. It creates an appropriate environment that favours the development of digital networks and services. It opens up the possibility of improving access to information, improving efficiency in terms of reducing transaction costs, dematerializing consumption and reducing the environmental footprint, and the possibility of introducing improved business and administrative models
Generally, DSM stimulates the economy and improves the quality of life thanks to e-commerce and e-government.
Strengthening e-commerce brings obvious benefits to consumers, such as fast-growing new products, lower prices, more choice and better quality of goods and services, thanks to cross-border trade and more straightforward comparison of offers. More comprehensive application of e-government services enables citizens and businesses to more easily meet online requirements and obligations, access jobs and business opportunities.
The main goal of the digital single market is to remove national barriers to online transactions. It is based on the idea of a common market aimed at eliminating trade barriers between the Member States in order to increase economic prosperity and achieve “an ever closer union between the peoples of Europe”, which was then developed into an internal market defined as “an area without internal borders free movement of goods, persons, services and capital.“
Europeans often face obstacles in using online tools and services. A functionally single digital market guarantees fewer barriers and more opportunities: citizens and businesses will be able to trade freely and innovate. They will be able to do this safely and legally and at an acceptable cost, which will make their lives easier.
The digital single market stimulates the economy and improves the quality of life thanks to e-commerce and e-government. Market and public services are shifting from fixed to mobile platforms and becoming ubiquitous. These changes require a European regulatory framework for the development of cloud computing and mobile data connectivity regardless of national borders while protecting the privacy and personal data and ensuring cybersecurity. Parliament’s legislative achievements in building a European digital single market contribute to European growth with an additional € 177 billion a year.
What does it have to do with Free-to-Air?
“Basic principles and values of European audiovisual media regulation like the protection of minors, access to information, pluralism and diversity need to remain applicable and attainable, today and in the future. This is why the EU rules which underpin these values need to be adjusted to better reflect the reality of the market today and address the increasingly important role of audiovisual platforms.”
Nicola Frank, EBU Head of European Affairs
Frank also stated that “it is crucial that free-to-air content of public value remains easily accessed by audiences in the digital single market and continues playing a central role in stimulating the European creative economy, informed citizenship and cultural diversity.” However, many are against changing the status quo, especially if it undermines territoriality and contractual freedom guaranteed to right-holders. The main concern is legal uncertainty stemming from the potential application of 28 national legal copyright frameworks to the same online transmission. That is one of the reasons why the Free-to-Air collective works closely on monitoring and analysing relevant policies in order to ensure the fair market with equal protection for both right holders and consumers.
In its resolution of 20 April 2012 entitled ‘A competitive digital single market – eGovernment as a leader‘, European Parliament emphasized the need for a clear and consistent legal framework for the mutual recognition of electronic identity verification, identification and signatures, which is needed for cross-border administrative services to function throughout the EU.
On 11 December 2012, Parliament adopted two non-legislative resolutions on the internal market, one on the completion of the single digital market and the other on a strategy for digital freedom in EU foreign policy. The resolutions aimed to develop policies and practices to establish a genuine digital single market in the EU in order to cope with 27 different sets of rules in key areas such as VAT, postal services and intellectual property rights. Linking SMEs to the digital revolution through genuine, well-developed and pan-European e-commerce is one of the recommendations to the Commission and the Council to remove digital barriers between the Member States.
On 4 July 2013, Parliament adopted another Resolution on the Digital Single Market, focusing on exploiting the full potential of the Digital Single Market, tackling skills shortages, building consumer confidence and security, creating an attractive legal digital content offer, setting up services mobility and strengthening the international dimension. That resolution contained policy guidelines which the Commission then applied in its Digital Single Market Strategy. Parliament’s achievements in the digital field are based on the preparatory work of the Working Party on the Digital Single Market.
On 6 May 2015, European Commission adopted a Digital Single Market Strategy based on three pillars: (1) better access to digital goods and services for consumers and businesses across Europe; (2) creating an appropriate environment and a level playing field for the flourishing of digital networks and innovative services; (3) exploiting the full growth potential of the digital economy. Within these pillars, the Commission has developed a plan covering 16 key measures. In order to measure Europe’s progress towards the digital economy and society, the Commission has set up an online tool called the “Index of Economic and Social Digitization” (DESI). This tool includes five relevant indicators for the current set of digital policies in Europe, which allows an overview of the results achieved in each Member State.
Following the publication of the strategy, the Commission made a number of legislative proposals to establish a digital single market. The aim of the new legislative proposals is to address issues such as unjustified geographical blocking, cross-border package delivery services, cross-border portability of Internet content services, review of the Regulation on Consumer Protection Cooperation audiovisual media services, contracts for the sale of goods online and other distance selling of products and arrangements for the delivery of digital content. The Commission has also published communications explaining the future policy approach, e.g. concerning Internet platforms.
As a part of the Digital Single Market Strategy, Parliament adopted a resolution on 19 January 2016 on the Digital Single Market Act, calling on the Commission to put an end to the unjustified denial of access based on geographical location, to improve access to EU consumer goods and services; It ams to ensure the equal level of consumer protection resistant to future changes whether digital content is purchased online or offline, to find innovative solutions for cross-border package delivery to improve services and reduce costs, to remove barriers to small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and growing businesses, and to take advantage of the opportunities that are opening up thanks to new information and communication technologies.
Parliament argued that online platforms (e.g. search engines, application stores) should maintain a policy conducive to the development of innovation that facilitates market access and called for a review of the ePrivacy Directive to ensure that its provisions are consistent with the new EU rules on data protection.
On 18 December 2019, Parliament adopted a Resolution on enabling the digital transformation of the digital single market in the field of health and care: empowering citizens and creating a healthier society.
In its Resolution of 17 April 2020 on coordinated EU action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, Parliament stated that the COVID-19 pandemic recovery and recovery package would play a vital role in the digital transformation to boost the economy.
Research commissioned by Parliament has shown that the digital single market has significant potential to reduce costs and barriers in Europe for citizens and businesses, making the European economy “greener” and more socially oriented.
In Europe, a significant part of this potential can be realized by developing e-government and related services such as e-health.
Future research papers related to the digital single market to be published in 2020 include online platforms, content moderation practices regarding illegal content on the internet and the role of single points of contact in the single market.