The e-Commerce Directive is now 20 years old. In the two decades since it came into force, the internet has grown beyond recognition and has brought so much to the life of Europe’s citizens. Recent months have shown just how valuable the internet and online services are. Millions of Europeans were able to work, shop and connect with family and friends from their homes through a time of crisis.
The challenges posed by the internet have evolved too, and we need to consider how to adapt our rules to address these challenges. But in doing so, we must protect the foundations on which Europe’s internet economy is built.
This week, EDiMA is publishing a paper that highlights the three fundamental pillars of the e-Commerce Directive that stood the test of time. These three principles enabled the growth of the internet economy in Europe and should form the bedrock of the new Digital Services Act.
The Country of Origin Principle sets out that online service providers based in one European country can follow the laws of that country even when it offers its services across the EU. This provision makes the single market a reality in the digital sphere and allows small startups to grow and reach a market of 300 million people in 27 countries.
The Limited Liability Regime establishes that service providers must remove illegal content or activity when they have been informed of its presence on their service, thereby ensuring that they cannot be held liable for illegal content unless they have ‘actual knowledge.’ This legal provision ensures the users’ fundamental rights are respected, and provides legal certainty for the service provider.
The Prohibition of a General Monitoring Obligation means that service providers cannot be forced to monitor every action of their users, protecting the fundamental rights of European citizens.
A Digital Services Act that does not keep these three pillars intact will undermine the functioning of these services. It will harm thousands of small and medium enterprises that aspire to be the next big European tech company, and it will make the internet a less innovative and less open place.
That is why EDiMA is calling on EU policymakers to retain these core principles and equip everyone involved in building a strong and safe digital economy in Europe with the laws and tools needed to deliver for all.