Europe’s digital competitiveness depends on free data flow

The European Commission today tabled a package of measures to allow consumers and companies to buy and sell products and services online more easily and confidently across the EU.

Digital Single Market

Delivering on its Digital Single Market and Single Market strategies, the European Commission has presented a three-pronged plan to boost e-commerce by tackling geoblocking, making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient and promoting customer trust through better protection and enforcement.

In the meantime, and in preparation of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy and Competitiveness Council meetings scheduled for 26 May 2016, ministers from half of EU member states have sent a letter to the European Commission, asking for the creation of a regulatory environment that will stimulate digital entrepreneurship and spur digitization across the economy.

“Europe can benefit significantly from new data-driven technologies if the right future-proof regulatory framework is established. It should be ensured that data can move freely across borders, both within and outside the EU, by removing all unjustified barriers to the free flow of data and that regulation does not constitute a barrier to development and adoption of innovative data-driven technologies,” they said.

“We must provide a coherent and technology neutral data-protection regime without overlapping regulation. We encourage the Commission to deliver an ambitious review of the e-Privacy directive with the aim to repeal all elements that are no longer fit for purpose while ensuring the right balance between digital products and services and the fundamental rights of data subjects across the regulatory framework.”

“It is clear that the initiatives set out by the European Commission today are aimed at finally allowing European tech companies to compete with their US counterparts,” Guy Marson, co-founder at data science and intelligence marketing company Profusion, commented for Help Net Security.

“The e-commerce initiatives are designed to make it easier and cheaper for smaller tech companies to compete with the likes of Amazon by reducing the barriers to trading across Europe. However, the real game changer is likely to be the EU’s plan, expected in the autumn, to create a free flow of data across Europe.”

“Currently, for a tech company in the UK or Germany to scale across Europe usually necessitates jumping through a huge number of compliance rules and develop unnecessary infrastructure. This puts a major limiting factor on many tech companies, making it nearly impossible for them to grow to the same size and at the same rate as US companies like Facebook. Homogenised data rules will level the playing field by quickly giving European tech companies access to the same sized consumer market as American start ups,” he explained.

“It is of course worth noting that if Brexit occurs UK tech companies will find themselves shut out of these initiatives. Clearly, that will make it much harder for UK tech companies to compete with businesses in Germany and France. It is also likely to make London a much less attractive place for global tech companies seeking to enter the European market.”

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