New EU Communication on E-commerce and Online Services Published

January 11, 2012

On 11 January 2012, the European Commission adopted the Communication on e-commerce and other online services announced in the ‘Digital Agenda‘ and the ‘Single Market Act‘. Based on what it describes as an in-depth public consultation, the Communication sets out the Commission’s ‘vision for the potential represented by online services in growth and employment, identifies the principal obstacles to the development of e-commerce and online services, and establishes 5 priorities, accompanied by an action plan’. The full text of the Communication can be accessed here (but note that, as of 14.30 pm on 11 January, this is described as a ‘provisional version’).

The ‘Communication’ is said to offer 16 targeted initiatives aimed at doubling the share of e-commerce in retail sales (currently 3.4%) and that of the Internet sector in European GDP (currently less than 3%) by 2015. The Commission states that by 2015 online trade and services could account for more than 20% of growth and net job creation in some Member States (such as France, Germany, the UK and Sweden).

Michel Barnier, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President responsible for the Digital Agenda, and John Dalli, Commissioner for Consumer Policy, released a statement in these terms: ‘In the difficult circumstances facing Europe we must seize every source of activity and new jobs as a matter of urgency. The action plan we are presenting today will create new opportunities for citizens and businesses and will bring Europe much-needed growth and employment. It aims to remove the obstacles which until now have frustrated the development of Europe’s Internet economy.’


The Communication puts forward an action plan which, says the Commission, will facilitate cross-border access to online products and content, ultimately solve the problems of payment, delivery and consumer protection and information, and assist dispute resolution and the removal of illegal content, thus helping to develop an Internet that is more secure and more respectful of fundamental rights and freedoms. This seems stunningly ambitious; indeed ‘solving’ all the identified problems will be an astonishing achievement.


Apparently, the aim is to create an environment more likely to foster a dynamic Digital Single Market by tackling the problems in its path, while promoting investment in wireless connectivity and new-generation fixed infrastructure and supporting the development of cloud computing.

The Communication goes on to list the obstacles to the development of the Internet economy: a legal cross-border supply shortage, inadequate information and protection for consumers, inefficient deliveries and payments, illegal content that is still too difficult to manage, and the dangers of the spread of cybercrime.


The Communication is accompanied by two staff working papers. The first conducts an analysis of the factors hindering the development of e-commerce and presents an evaluation of the E-Commerce Directive. The second presents a detailed analysis of the particular obstacles that have been identified as particularly relevant for e-commerce in products:

·        Working paper: Online services, including e-commerce, in the Single Market (Provisional version)

·        Working paper: Bringing e-commerce benefits to consumers (Provisional version)

The Communication was adopted together with the Green Paper on Card, Internet, and Mobile payments.