European Union - eCommerceEuropean Union - eCommerce
The European Union’s Digital Single Market Initiative
Creating a Digital Single Market (DSM) is one of the ten priorities of the European Commission (EC). The overall objective is to bring down barriers, regulatory or otherwise, and to unlock online opportunities in Europe, from e-commerce to e-government. By doing so, the EU hopes to do away with the current 28 fragmented markets and create one borderless market with harmonized legislation and rules for the benefit of businesses and consumers alike throughout Europe.
The EC set out its vision in its May 6, 2015 DSM Strategy which has been followed by a number of concrete legislative proposals and policy actions. They are broad reaching and include reforming e-commerce sector, VAT, copyright, audio-visual media services, consumer protection, and telecommunications laws. Most of these proposals are currently going through the legislative process. DSM-related legislation will have a broad impact on U.S. companies doing business in Europe.
The three main pillars of the strategy are:
Pillar I: Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe
- Better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe
- Remove key differences between the online and offline worlds to break down barriers to cross-border online activity.
- Achieve high-speed, secure and trustworthy infrastructures and content services
- Set the right regulatory conditions for innovation, investment, fair competition and a level playing field.
- Invest in technologies such as cloud computing and Big Data, and in research and innovation to boost industrial competiveness and skills
- Increase interoperability and standardization
For more information: Digital Single Market
The Electronic Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) provides rules for online services in the EU. It requires providers to abide by rules in the country where they are established (country of origin). Online providers must respect consumer protection rules such as indicating contact details on their website, clearly identifying advertising and protecting against spam. The Directive also grants exemptions to liability for intermediaries that transmit illegal content by third parties and for unknowingly hosting content.
Comprehensive Market Research on e-commerce in the EU is available upon request.
Key Link: eCommerce
For information on this topic please consult the Commerce Department’s Country Commercial Guides on EU Member States: EU Member States' Country Commercial Guides
Alternatively, search the Commerce Department’s Market Research Library, available from: Market Intelligence
Value Added Tax (VAT)
The EU’s VAT system is semi-harmonized. While the guidelines are set out at the EU level, the implementation of VAT policy is the prerogative of Member States. The EU VAT Directive allows Member States to apply a minimum 15 percent VAT rate. However, they may apply reduced rates for specific goods and services or temporary derogations. Therefore, the examination of VAT rates by Member State is strongly recommended. These and other rules are laid out in the VAT Directive.
The EU applies Value Added Tax (VAT) to sales by non-EU based companies of Electronically Supplied Services (ESS) to EU-based non-business customers. U.S. companies that are covered by the rule must collect and submit VAT to EU tax authorities. From 1 January 2015, all supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services are taxable at the place where the customer resides. In the case of businesses this means either the country where it is registered or the country where it has fixed premises receiving the service. In the case of consumers, it is where they are registered, have their permanent address, or usually live.
As part of the legislative changes of 2015, the Commission launched the Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) scheme, the use of which is optional. It is meant to facilitate the sales of ESS from taxable to non-taxable persons (B2C) located in Member States in which the sellers do not have an establishment to account for the VAT.
This plan allows taxable persons (sellers) to avoid registering in each Member State of consumption. A taxable person who is registered for the Mini One Stop Shop in a Member State (the Member State of Identification) can electronically submit quarterly Mini One Stop Shop VAT returns detailing supplies of ESS to non-taxable persons in other Member States (the Member State(s) of consumption), along with the VAT due.
The Commission has received numerous complaints in relation to the new rules on ESS and is in the process of revising them.
The most important pieces of legislation on VAT are the EU VAT Directive 2006/112/EC and its Implementing Regulation 282/2011.
Further information relating to VAT on ESS:
European Union 28 eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce