The European Commission has presented numerous initiatives over the past three years to promote the digital single market and to exploit the growth opportunities offered by the digital economy. Important progress has been made in this regard. However, it is also clear that the digital single market is far from complete. Business and consumers continue to face significant barriers that prevent them from reaping the full potential benefits it has to offer.
This is why the IMCO Committee has set up a working group on the Digital Single Market and on e-Commerce, which in 2013 will start its third round of meetings in order to identify key remaining barriers and priority areas, where further action is needed as a matter of urgency. The working group will gather input on the strategic direction that should be taken and will put this forward as a contribution to a possible Single Market Act III on the Digital Single Market. To ensure timely input, a series of meetings will be held throughout the first half of 2013, leading to the adoption of conclusions by IMCO in July 2013.
Working Group Coordinator: Pablo Arias Echeverría (EPP)
Honorary Members: Malcolm Harbour, Chair of IMCO (ECR), Louis Grech, Vice-Chair of IMCO (S&D), Sirpa Pietikäinen, Vice-Chair of IMCO (EPP)
Regular Members: Antonio Correia de Campos (S&D), Martin Lokkegaard (ALDE), Christian Engstrom (Greens), Emma McClarkin (ECR), Dennis De Jong (GUE), Matteo Salvini (EFD)
The Lisbon Treaty reaffirms consumer protection as a horizontal and key EU policy, stipulating that consumer protection requirements shall be taken into account in defining and implementing other Union policies and activities (Art.12 TFEU). The European Consumer Agenda, the political document which was adopted by the European Commission on 22 May 2012, promises to do exactly that: to set out a strategic framework for the Union's consumer policy for the years to come, integrating consumer interests in all Union policies.
The purpose of an effective consumer policy is to ensure healthy markets in which consumers can operate safely and with confidence, and where cross-border trading and innovation are encouraged. An active consumer policy should enable citizens to reap the benefits of the internal market to its full potential, by offering them a wider choice of high quality products and services at competitive prices.
An effective consumer policy also depends on consumers and businesses knowing their rights and obligations under existing legislation and on their ability to apply them to their commercial transactions. Confident, well-informed and empowered consumers are key to the efficient functioning of markets, as they reward traders that operate fairly and respond best to consumers' needs. The increased complexity of retail markets, and particularly the retail services market, however, makes it increasingly difficult for consumers, especially vulnerable consumers, to make an informed choice when purchasing goods and services.
Tools like the Consumer Markets Scoreboard and the Consumer Empowerment Survey, which monitor the market, are essential to formulate policies delivering the best possible results for consumers, and are useful to be more responsive to citizens' expectations and to better understand the problems they face in their daily lives. It is therefore crucial to develop the right indicators of performance, in particular to measure consumer awareness and understanding. e.g. on EU labels and logos (cf. Bastos Report - Citizens' 20 main concerns).
Finally, having a number of important structures in place to tackle cross-border consumer issues, such as SOLVIT, the ECC Network and the Your Europe portal, it is important to focus on a single point of access (e.g. the Your Europe portal) and promote the strongest 'brand names'.
The European Parliament's main demands to the Commission on the future of the Union's consumer policy, were presented in the form of an EP's Resolution of 15 November 2011 (Triantaphyllides Report (IMCO)).
The response to the new Consumer Agenda which was published afterwards, on 22 May 2012 is being prepared in an IMCO report under the draftmanship of Vicente Garcés Ramón (S&D). Shadow rapporteurs: Sandra Kalniete (EPP), Robert Rochefort (ALDE), Heidi Rühle (Greens), Malcolm Harbour (ECR), Kyriakos Triantaphyllides (GUE), Matteo Salvini (EFD). The vote in IMCO will take place on 24th April and then the resolution based on this report will be voted in plenary in May 2013.
IMCO Committee is dealing with the reform of the Professional Qualifications Directive. Some of the main elements of the proposal for modernisation consist of the introduction of a European professional card, better access to information and access to e-government services, modernisation of harmonised minimum training requirements, an alert mechanism for health professions, common training principles, mutual evaluation exercise on regulated professions, rules on partial access to a regulated profession and the clarification of the rules on language skills.
The European Commission presented its proposal and the impact assessments on the 9th of January and Members held a first exchange of view on the 28th of February. The Committee organized a hearing on the subject entitled "Growth & Mobility: Modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive" on the 25th of April. The members have held two considerations on the draft Report by the Rapporteur, on the 18th of September and the 10th of October. The deadline for amendments passed on the 15th of October, and the first consideration of amendments was held on the 6th of November.
Following the adoption of the report in IMCO Committee in January 2013 , Members have started negotiations with the Irish Presidency and the European Commission in order to reach an early first reading agreement on this dossier.
The first trialogue meetings are foreseen on the 20th of March and the 24th of April.
From the EP side the negotiating team consists of Rapporteur Bernadette Vergnaud (S&D) and the shadow Rapporteurs: Constance Le Grip (EPP), Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE), Heide Rühle (GREEND/EFA), Emma McClarkin (ECR), Thomas Händel (GUE/NGL), Matteo Salvini (EFD).
On 12 March 2013 the Parliament adopted in plenary two legal acts as first-reading agreements being the result of negotiations with the Council on the basis of earlier IMCO reports, namely a Directive on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes (ADR) and a Regulation on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes (ODR). Whereas the ADR directive will ensure that quality out-of-court entities exist to deal with any contractual dispute between a consumer and a business, the ODR regulation will establish a European electronic platform offering a single point of entry to those who seek to resolve a dispute which has arisen from a cross-border e-commerce transaction.
Alternative dispute resolution schemes usually use a third party such as an arbitrator, mediator or an ombudsman to help the consumer and the trader to reach a solution in case of a dispute. Their advantage is offering more flexibility than going to court and better meeting the needs of both consumers and professionals. Compared to a court case these schemes are cheaper, quicker and more informal. In view of the fact that these out-of-court mechanisms have been developed differently across the European Union and that consumers often refrain from cross-border purchases because of uncertainty about who to turn to in case of a problem with a foreign trader, the need for regulatory action at the European level was identified and the Commission submitted legislative proposals in the end of 2012.
Following the vote of the Parliament, the Council is expected to formally adopt the agreement in April, and both institutions would sign the Directive and the Regulation in May 2013, allowing for their publication in the Official Journal before summer. The entry into force of both acts will happen 20 days later, and the 2-year transposition period for the ADR Directive will then start to be counted. The ODR platform will start working 6 months afterwards, with some of the Regulation's provisions applicable earlier.
Rapporteurs: ADR - Louis Grech (S&D), ODR - Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (EPP)
In view of the upcoming legislative proposal which is expected to be presented by the end of the year, the IMCO Committee is currently working on an own initiative report on the implementation of the Professional Qualifications Directive. The report will review the implementation of Directive 2005/36 and feed into the discussion surrounding the recently published Green Paper on the modernisation of professional qualifications.
De interne markt en het daarmee gepaard gaande vrije verkeer van personen, goederen en diensten vormen één van de belangrijkste fundamenten van de EU en hebben de Europese burgers en bedrijven welvaart en groei, banen, mobiliteit en keuzevrijheid gebracht.
De Commissie interne markt en consumentenbescherming is van mening dat de burger de kern moet zijn waarrond de interne markt draait. Het is onze opdracht ervoor te zorgen dat mensen zich waar dan ook in de EU kunnen vestigen om er te werken, studeren of een onderneming te beginnen.
Wij willen bereiken dat consumenten op de hoogte zijn van hun rechten en erop kunnen vertrouwen dat ze veilig en beschermd zijn wanneer ze in de EU producten kopen, of ze dat nu doen in winkels in hun buurt of online, over de grenzen heen.
Het is ons doel duidelijke regels voor ondernemingen vast te leggen en kleine bedrijven die hun kansen op de markt voor het vervaardigen en verkopen van producten of het verlenen van diensten willen vergroten, het leven eenvoudiger te maken.
De Commissie interne markt en consumentenbescherming heeft de aanzet gegeven voor de Akte voor de interne markt, die de interne markt een nieuw elan moet geven. Wij verbinden ons ertoe de voorstellen van deze akte zo snel mogelijk in praktijk te brengen. Alleen een goed functionerende interne Europese markt kan onze welvaart en ons concurrentievermogen op wereldvlak in de loop van de komende decennia veiligstellen.
Malcolm Harbour Voorzitter van de Commissie interne markt en consumentenbescherming