Associate Professor, Aristotle University, Faculty of law
Important Aspects of the EU acquis on E-Commerce
Directive (Directive 2000/31/EC), adopted in 20001,
sets up a legal framework for electronic commerce in the European Union, which
aims at providing legal certainty for business and consumers. It establishes
harmonized rules on issues such as the transparency and information
requirements for online service providers, commercial communications, electronic
contracts and limitations of liability of intermediary service providers.
This Directive applies to information
society services, e.g., any
service normally provided for remuneration, at a distance, by electronic means
and at the individual request of a recipient of a service. Examples of such
services include online information services (such as online newspapers),
online selling of products and services (books, e-books, financial services and
travel services), online advertising, professional services (lawyers, doctors,
estate agents), entertainment services and basic intermediary services (access
to the Internet and transmission and hosting of information). These services
include also services provided free of charge to the recipient and funded, for
example, by advertising or sponsorship; this is the case of social networking
sites, such as Facebook, as well as news sites, etc.
An important principle introduced in the
Directive is the Internal Market
clause (Article 3 (1)), which
provides that information society services are subject to the law of the Member
State in which the service provider is established. This is complemented by the
non-discrimination principle (Article 3 (2)), according to which the Member
State in which the information society service is received cannot restrict
incoming services. In addition, the Directive enhances administrative
cooperation between the Member States and the role of self-regulation.
The E-Commerce Directive is supplemented by the
E-Signatures Directive (Directive
1999/93), which lays down the criteria that form the basis for legal
recognition of electronic signatures by focusing on certification services.
These encompass the following:
obligations for certification service providers in order to secure transborder
recognition of signatures and certificates throughout the EU;
· common rules on
liability to help build confidence among users, who rely on the certificates,
and among service providers;
mechanisms to facilitate transborder recognition of signatures and certificates
with third countries.
This Directive was replaced with the Regulation 910/2014 on electronic
identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal
market (eIDAS Regulation) adopted
on 23 July 2014. It shall apply from 1 July 2016, with the exception of certain
provisions which will apply in different stages.
The eIDAS Regulation creates a European
internal market for electronic identification and electronic trust services,
which includes electronic signatures, electronic seals, time stamp, and
electronic delivery service and website authentication.
Other EU legislation, which is relevant, is:
· The E-Money Directive (2009/110/EC). The
Directive focuses on modernizing EU rules on electronic money, especially
bringing the regime for electronic money institutions, into line with the
requirements for payment institutions in the Payment Services Directive.
2010/45/EU amending Directive 2006/112/EC on the common system of value added tax as regards the
rules on invoicing - This
Directive sets out new VAT rules as regards e-invoicing and removes the
obstacles to the uptake of e-invoicing by creating equal treatment between
paper and e-invoices, while also ensuring that no additional requirements are
imposed on paper invoices. According to the new Article 233 of the Directive,
businesses will be free to send and receive e-invoices providing they maintain
"business controls which create a reliable audit trail between an invoice
and a supply of goods or services" in the same way as is currently done for paper invoices.
· The Information
Society Directive (2001/29/EC on copyright in the information society) - This Directive aims at the
harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the
information society, in order to adapt legislation on copyright and related
rights to reflect technological developments in the era of Internet.
· The E-Privacy
Directive (2002/58 as amended by Directive 2009/136) regulating electronic
communications - This Directive
mainly concerns the processing of personal data relating to the delivery of
communications services. It includes provisions on security of electronic
services, confidentiality of communications, unsolicited communications
(spamming), Cookies, etc.
· The Consumer Rights Directive (Directive
2011/83) - This Directive aims at
achieving a real business-to-consumer (B2C) internal market, striking the right
balance between a high level of consumer protection and
the competitiveness of enterprises. It includes, inter alia, provisions on
distance contracts, which apply to e-commerce. The Directive lays down information requirements for
distance contracts, including information about the functionality and
interoperability of digital content. It regulates the right of withdrawal,
including a standard withdrawal form that must be provided by traders and may
be used by consumers to notify the withdrawal from the contract, etc.
It is also notable that in the Digital Single Market Strategy for
Europe, presented by the European Commission in 6.5.20152,
e-commerce is amongst the top priorities of the European Union. In the
Communication it is mentioned that:
“A Digital Single
Market is one in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and
capital is ensured and where individuals and businesses can seamlessly access
and exercise online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high
level of consumer and personal data protection, irrespective of their
nationality or place of residence. Achieving a Digital Single Market will
ensure that Europe maintains its position as a world leader in the digital
economy, helping European companies to grow globally.”
Associate Professor, Aristotle University, Faculty of law
The E-Commerce Directive (Directive 2000/31/EC), adopted in 20001, sets up a legal framework for electronic commerce in the European Union, which aims at providing legal certainty for business and consumers. It establishes harmonized rules on issues such as the transparency and information requirements for online service providers, commercial communications, electronic contracts and limitations of liability of intermediary service providers.