Digital Europe under construction

Protecting consumers in the digital age is one of the priorities of the new European Commission. Below is the map of real-time attacks.

Europe has been developing a digital strategy for several years to offer consumers the opportunity to take full advantage of the benefits of the Internet and digital technologies.
After, among other things, the end of the geographical blockage in e-commerce, the portability of online music or film subscriptions, the protection of personal data (DGPS)… the new European Commission is moving up a gear by setting digital and the protection of its users as one of its three priorities. Pending the new legislation on digital services announced in Ursula von der Leyen’s programme, the European Consumer Centre (ECC) France looks back at some of the achievements of the digital single market and future projects.

End of geo-blocking in e-commerce

For the past year to the day, Europe has put an end to unjustified geoblocking in European e-commerce. Consumers can now buy goods and services from a professional based in another EU country under the same conditions, prices and delivery conditions as customers domiciled in that country. They may no longer be blocked or restricted in accessing a website or smartphone application from a professional established in another EU Member State for reasons related to their nationality, place of residence, postal address, IP address, delivery address, language, bank domiciliation. Nor can they be automatically redirected to a national site without their consent.
But buying does not mean delivering. Access to products offered by a professional based in another country does not imply an obligation for him to deliver in the consumer’s country of residence. Consumers must therefore organise the delivery of their goods. For a real end to geoblocking, the Commission is working in particular on the problem of cross-border shipments by providing greater price transparency in order to encourage cross-border deliveries.

Film, music, TV, radio throughout the EU

Since 1 April 2018 and the entry into force of the European Regulation 2017/1128, consumers can use their paid subscriptions to watch films, series, listen to music (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Deezer, Spotify etc.) or read e-books even when they are temporarily staying in another EU Member State. Europe has allowed the cross-border portability of digital content. But these rules only apply to short stays in another EU country, so they do not benefit the 20 million Europeans living in another EU country who wish to watch TV and radio programmes in their mother tongue.
This is why Europe has committed itself to making foreign TV and radio broadcasts available on the Internet in all EU Member States: consumers should therefore have more choice by 7 June 2021 to watch and listen online to programmes broadcast in other EU countries (Directive 2019/789).

Internet for all

Europe wants to ensure that all EU citizens have the best possible Internet connection. To this end, the WiFi4EU initiative was launched to help local authorities in Europe install free WiFi access points in public places. 7980 municipalities in the EU have already benefited from this programme.
The Commission has also presented an action plan to deploy 5G throughout the EU with the aim of having at least one major city in each Member State “connected 5G” by the end of 2020 and all urban areas and major land transport routes with 5G coverage by 2025.

More than a year of personal data protection

On 25 May 2018, Europe harmonised and strengthened the rights of European consumers to their personal data with the famous RGPD. This regulation has strengthened existing rights such as the right to information, access or rectification of one’s data, it has created new rights such as the right to forget and it has considerably increased the penalties for professionals in the event of infringement. The RGPD is a real step forward also because it applies not only to all European companies or organisations but also to all Internet giants domiciled outside the EU but operating on European territory (see the 50 million euro penalty imposed on Google by the CNIL).
Europe has also enshrined the market value of personal data by recognising the same protective rights (2-year guarantee, 14-day right of withdrawal, etc.) for “purchases” of “free” digital services, i.e. where consumers have not paid money but provided personal data (registration on social networks, opening of an e-mail account, storage of data on the cloud, etc.).

Transparency of marketplaces

More and more e-commerce companies are hosting independent sellers based in different countries on their websites, for a commission. They then become “Marketplaces”. By buying from a seller located outside the EU on a European marketplace, consumers have in principle the same rights as if they were buying from a European seller (14-day withdrawal period, 2-year legal compliance guarantee, etc.). But their implementation can be much more complicated. This is why the proposal for a Directive on better application and modernisation of consumer protection rules reinforces the information requirements when shopping online: clear information on the identity of the seller and his status (professional or private individual knowing that consumer rights do not apply to purchases between private individuals), information on whether the seller has paid or not to be included in the first results of the research…

Security of electronic payments

To make e-commerce more secure and combat credit card fraud, Europe has imposed on EU Member States increased security for payment methods and access to online accounts through the “strong customer authentication” system. This measure came into force on 14 September 2019 in all European countries and will be gradually introduced in a number of countries such as France (full implementation in 2022) in order to give banks and online merchants time to comply. Until then, caution should be exercised with regard to (false) e-mails (phishing) that consumers may receive regarding the implementation of this measure: banks NEVER ask their customers to confirm personal data by e-mail.