On 30 January, Ecommerce Europe attended a high-level roundtable in presence of the Commission’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, Commissioner Vera Jourová and Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. This high-level roundtable was organized to foster dialogue between the European Commission and business stakeholders on the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, the negotiation on the ePrivacy Regulation as well as the recent developments on the EU-US Privacy Shield. The European Commission updated the participants on these important files and opened the floor to the Industry’s concerns and questions.
Industry’s concerns regarding the implementation of GDPR
As explained by Commissioner Jourová, the implementation of the GDPR is still ongoing, with only very few EU countries having taken the appropriate steps to adapt their legal framework in view of the deadline of 25 May. While the Commission recently published guidance and a new online tool to speed up the adaptation process, especially for SMEs, which has been welcomed by the business representatives, the industry seized the opportunity to share its concerns in view of May 2018.
In particular, some industry representatives expressed reservations concerning the interpretation of GDPR provisions in some of the Guidelines published by the Article 29 Working Party and the delay of the process in general, which further complicate the applicability of the Regulation. Commissioner Jourová acknowledged that the implementation will be a developing process and welcomed the Industry’s feedbacks on the important work done by the Working Party 29, and she finally encouraged stakeholders to continue sharing their inputs on the implementation process, but also on the Commission’s online tool.
Current status of the Proposal for a Regulation on ePrivacy
The ePrivacy Regulation was proposed by the European Commission a year ago, with the ambition to fast-track the discussion in view of an adoption in May 2018, to coincide with the entry into application of the General Data Protection Regulation. But while the European Parliament managed to reach its position in 2017, the Council of the EU still struggles to find adequate compromises on most of the issues.
During the Roundtable, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel stressed that the European Commission’s objective was to fully harmonize rules for ePrivacy, ensure consistency with the adopted GDPR and ensure a high level of confidentiality while leaving space for business innovation. The industry, however, expressed once again its concerns on the text, in particular its alignment with the GDPR and the fact that the ePrivacy Regulation would not allow a lot of space for innovation.
Commissioner Gabriel said that the Bulgarian Presidency is carefully looking into the alignment of the ePrivacy Regulation with the GDPR and that the it still hopes to reach a General Approach by June 2018. Discussions in the European Parliament already proved difficult last year, with the LIBE Report being adopted only with 31 votes against 25. It is therefore likely that even if the Council manages to reach a General approach, as the Bulgarian Presidency hopes, the trialogue negotiations will require a long period of negotiation.
Ecommerce Europe strongly welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to organize such round tables and looks forward to contributing to the next one. In the meantime, the European e-commerce association will continue to represent the interests of online merchants through its active participation in consultation processes and continuous dialogue with EU institutions.