Cautious welcome by IoD to plans for a Digital Single Market across Europe

Cautious welcome by business leaders to announcement of a Digital Single MarketThe Institute of Directors has given a cautious welcome to the plans announced by the European Commission this week to create a Digital Single Market across Europe. At present, online barriers means businesses are not fully benefitting from digital tools; there is less opportunity for cross border selling and Internet companies and start-ups are unable to take full advantage of growth opportunities online. The aim of the Digital Single Market is to remove regulatory walls and eventually move from 28 national markets to a single one. According to the European Commission, a fully functional Digital Single Market could contribute €415 billion per year to the economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

While the IoD has said it welcomes this strategy, it has warned that a balanced approach to big data which reduces red-tape and puts simplicity and innovation at the heart of its agenda is crucial for businesses both in Britain and across Europe.

Allie Renison, Head of EU and Trade Policy at the IoD, said: “Britain has been leading the digital start up revolution in Europe and it is a positive step that the EU is looking to bring in a harmonised framework that will help other countries catch up. Selling online across borders is no longer a novelty for companies, so driving forward a Digital Single Market is crucial.

“Overly complicated rules often deter SMEs from expanding outside of their domestic market, so the EU must ensure any new legislation does not add to the red-tape burden, or stifle the many tech start-ups in Britain for whom big data is the lifeblood of their trade.

However she warned: “The data protection regulation currently being negotiated could hamper the activity of many of Europe’s tech entrepreneurs, while imposing a significant time and resource burden for the hundreds of thousands of businesses who don’t deal with data processing on a day to day basis.”

The Digital Single Market Strategy includes a set of targeted actions to be delivered by the end of next year. It is built on three pillars: (1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the move would lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future.

“I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups. I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe.”

The Digital Single Market project team has promised to deliver on the three pillars by the end of 2016.