The European Union will become a Digital Single Market in 2016, bringing with it a host of benefits for UK businesses looking to expand to the continent.
Good news for European travellers: the end of mobile roaming charges is in sight! Soon we’ll be remembering the shocking mobile bills after a long trip abroad like we do cassette players: as a thing of the past. The date for when calling home from Spain or Belgium will cost the same as calling across town is set to June 2017, as the European Commission (EC) takes us one step closer to a single telecoms market.
Interestingly, the European Commission’s statement treated the end of mobile roaming charges as an issue of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the idea that all data on the internet should be treated the same regardless where it came from. Net Neutrality is a key component for enabling smaller companies to compete with an established brand on the internet, as the internet provider can’t give preferential treatment to big companies who can pay more.
“Today’s agreement [to scrap mobile roaming charges] enshrines for the first time the principle of net neutrality into EU law: users will be free to access the content of their choice, they will not be unfairly blocked or slowed down anymore, and paid prioritisation will not be allowed,” writes the EC in its press release. As of April 2016, the EU will have “the strongest and most comprehensive open internet rules in the world”.
The move towards this – creating a level telecoms playing field for people and businesses across the EU – is part of the Union’s work to create a Single Digital Market. At the moment, only 15% will shop online across borders, and only 7% of SMEs sell across EU borders, according to the EC. “The aim of the Digital Single Market is to tear down regulatory walls and finally move from 28 national markets to a single one. A fully functional Digital Single Market could contribute €415 billion per year to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” said the EC earlier this year.
The EC has outlined three main sections to achieve a Digital Single Market by 2016, all of which have distinct advantages for companies looking to expand across the EU:
- “Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe”
This will benefit businesses through a harmonisation of contracts and consumer protection for goods bought online. Companies should see more customers coming from the wider parts of the Union once confident they are protected by the same rules as they have at home. Another notable point here is how the EC will work to improve parcel delivery; at the moment, 62% of companies say too-high parcel delivery costs are a barrier to online sales. The administrative burden of VAT will also be streamlined, so sellers of physical goods can operate a single electronic payment system. A point which will benefit customers is the end of geo-blocking – the practice of directing people towards an international company’s local site, which may have different pricing.
- “Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish”
This will benefit businesses through an overhaul of EU telecoms rules. Features include more effective spectrum coordination and new incentives for investment in high-speed broadband. The latter is an important step for creating a level playing field for all market participants.
- “Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy”
This will benefit businesses through the promotion of free data movement within the EU. Currently, new services can be hampered by restrictions due to the physical location of the data. The EC is also launching the European Cloud, an initiative to provide certification for cloud services.