The report has no legal effects but it sets out EP’s views on different initiatives proposed by the Commission in the DSM Strategy. Although the report remains general about most of the issues, in includes some comments, which are important for the ongoing and future Commission’s legislative proposals. Two of the most important issues are: (1) there should be no separation between legal regimes for online and offline sales (point 16) and (2) retailers should not be forced to deliver everywhere in the EU (point 35).
The report was prepared by two EP’s committees: IMCO (draft report prepared by Evelyne Gebhardt) and ITRE (draft report prepared by Kaja Kallas).
Out of many issues covered in the report, here are most relevant for retail:
- Bringing down barriers for ecommerce (point 5) – The EP calls on the Commission to identify and dismantle barriers for cross-border ecommerce.
- Contract rules for online purchases (point 14- 25) – The EP welcomes the Commission’s proposal but it says that online and offline sales should be dealt with coherently and treated equally on the basis of the existing high level of consumer protection. It also says that harmonisation of the legal guarantees should be done in a technology-neutral manner and not impose unreasonable costs for business.
- Geoblocking (point 31-38) – The EP sees a need to end unjustified geo-blocking practices and unfair price discrimination based on location or nationality, which often have the effect of building monopolies and of consumers resorting to illegal content. It also says that consumers within the EU should be treated equally by online merchants selling cross-border including their access to discounts or other promotions. However, importantly the EP underlines that a ban on geo-blocking should not mean retailers are forced to deliver to Member State when they have no interest in selling their products to all Member States.
- VAT (point 47 – 51) – The EP thinks that developing a simplified, uniform and consistent online VAT system is a priority and it welcomes the introduction of the VAT Mini One-Stop Shop. However, the EP sees a problem in the absence of a threshold, which will make it difficult for some SMEs to comply with the current regime. The rules should be more business friendly, the EP says.
- Parcel delivery (point 26-30) – The EP supports the proposed measures on price transparency as a way to boost e-commerce and calls on the Commission to propose a comprehensive action plan, including guidelines for best practices, in cooperation with operators, to find innovative solutions to improve services.
- Online platforms (point 69-76) – Rather than calling for specific new rules the EP thinks that the existing laws (including the ecommerce, unfair commercial practices and consumer rights Directives) should be better enforced and applied. The EP sees priorities in enhancing transparency, non-discrimination, facilitation of switching between platforms or online services enabling consumer choice, access to platforms, and identifying and addressing barriers to the emergence and scale-up of platforms. The limited liability of intermediaries is essential to the protection of the openness of the internet.