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 The EPC Members' Newsletter

 

Legislative update 85 Month - February 2000

1. ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
1.1 Council formally adopts common position on draft Directive
1.2 Jurisdiction - Parliament delays adoption of its opinion
1.3 Rome II Convention - internal Commission discussions delay progress
1.4 Dispute resolution - Commission initiatives take shape
1.5 Communications Review - consultation ends
1.6 Transatlantic consumer dialogue (TACD) adopts resolutions on e-commerce
1.7 WTO - discussions begin on e-commerce and services
1.8 Commission to launch consultation on cyber-crime
1.9 Commission launches public debate .eu domain
1.10 Taxation - Commission experts to consider new proposal on VAT
1.11 Trust marks - UK consumers' association exports system to other EU countries
1.12 European Parliament members launch European Internet Foundation

2. INTERNET (CONTENT) REGULATION
2.1 European Commission offers assistance to the development of self-regulatory codes
2.2 Consumer lobby seeks a greater role in "self-regulation" of e-commerce

3. COPYRIGHT
3.1 Portuguese Presidency makes progress on compromise
3.2 European Parliament gives its assent to the WIPO Treaties

4. ADVERTISING
4.1 European Parliament launches Commercial Communications Group
4.2 Advertising to children - industry groups plan activity in the Parliament

5. AUDIOVISUAL AND GENERAL MEDIA POLICY
5.1 Portuguese Presidency holds conference on digital television
5.2 New Director General for Culture & Education sets out his vision for the future
5.3 Public service broadcasting - consultation on transparency Directive ends
5.4 Commission holds meeting on state aid and film production
5.5 Commission indicates shift in regulation of audiovisual works on-line
5.6 European Commission plans to launch Media Prizes for European productions

6. ENVIRONMENT
6.1 Packaging waste - draft revised Directive expected soon

7. GENERAL
7.1 Commission launches work programme for 2000
7.2 Data protection - EU & US working towards March deadline for agreement
7.3 Fundamental rights - drafting group report on progress towards an EU Charter
7.4 European Parliament holds hearing on data protection
7.5 Institutional reform - talks begin on revision of EU decision-making processes
7.6 Telecoms competition - Commission launches consultation on competition in the local loop
7.7 Communication Review - Commission publishes background studies
7.8 Postal services - Commission promises proposals for further liberalisation this year
7.9 Company law - Council delays further discussion of European company statute


Dates for your diary

March
15th - European Consumer Day, Brussels
16th - Internal Market Council, Brussels
21st - Commission workshop on on-line alternative dispute resolution, Brussels
28th - European Parliament hearing on e-commerce, Brussels

April
10th - 11th - Presidency seminar on audiovisual policy, Oporto, Portugal
10th - 11th - Presidency ministerial conference on the information and knowledge society, Lisbon, Portugal

May
4th - 5th - Presidency conference on arbitration in cross-border disputes, Lisbon, Portugal

June
16th Ð 17th Ð EPC Internet Seminar, Bilbao, Spain
26th-28th - OECD Forum 2000, Paris (see www.oecd.org/forum2000)

Note:
See http://www.portugal.ue-2000.pt for all Presidency events

General enquiries: Angela Mills
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 310 732
Facsimile: +44 (0)1865 310 739
Emma Ascroft
Telephone: +32 2 231 1299
Facsimile: +32 2 230 7658

Press Enquiries: Heidi Lambert
Telephone: +32 2 732 5546
Facsimile: +32 2 735 3603


1 Electronic commerce

1.1 Council formally adopts common position on draft Directive
The Council of Ministers formally adopted its common position on the draft Directive on e-commerce at its meeting on 28 February. The agreement, originally reached in December, establishes country of origin control for online content including commercial communications and sets out a regime for the free movement of e-commerce services. The text now passes to the European Parliament for its second reading which is expected to begin in March. Full text available on request.

1.2 Jurisdiction - Parliament delays adoption of its opinion
The European Parliament has delayed the adoption of its position on the draft Regulation which aims to revise the Brussels Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements. The move came after the Commission failed to give a position on amendments tabled by members of the Legal Affairs Committee. This is the first formal indication from the Commission that there are still internal disagreements on how to proceed. The Parliament's vote is now scheduled for 21 March, but the committee has not ruled out delaying the vote again if the Commission is still unable to give its position. The EPC is supporting amendments which would allow freedom of contract between sellers and consumers. Text and amendments available on request.

1.3 Rome II Convention - internal Commission discussions delay progress
The European Commission has failed to make progress with its plans to launch a public consultation on the revision of the Rome II Convention on non-contractual obligations. The results of an inter-service consultation launched in December are still under consideration after several Directorates General gave negative opinions on the proposal from the new Justice and Home Affairs DG. The Commission's original intention was to publish a consultation document in February and hold a public hearing in April.

1.4 Dispute resolution - Commission initiatives take shape
The services of the European Commission have made progress towards creating a framework for the settlement of cross-border consumer disputes which arise from e-commerce. The Consumer Protection DG is working to establish a European Extra-Judicial Network called EEJ-NET made up of a network of clearing houses in Member States who would redirect consumer complaints to the appropriate self-regulatory body. A discussion document is expected to be published shortly. The Information Society DG has undertaken a study to develop an on-line dispute resolution system. A workshop will take place on 21 March to present the results of the study. These initiatives will also be discussed at the Ministerial conference in Lisbon on 10-11 April. As agreed by Heads of Government end-1999, all initiatives will be non-legislative. Further details available on request.

1.5 Communications Review - consultation ends
The public consultation on the Commission's proposals for a communications review ended on 14 February. The submissions from interested parties will now be analysed by the Commission with a view to publishing the draft Directives necessary to implement the restructuring in May. The Commission's proposals were generally well received although there is some division among incumbent operators and new entrants on key issues such as access and interconnection. Mobile operators also oppose the extension of traditional telecoms regulation to the mobile sector, claiming that it is not necessary is such a competitive area. Full details of submissions available at: http://www.ispo.cec.be/infosoc/telecompolicy/review99/comments/comments.html

1.6 Transatlantic consumer dialogue (TACD) adopts resolutions on e-commerce
The TACD adopted a number of recommendations at its latest meeting in Washington D.C. on 10-12 February. In particular, the participants (over 60 consumer bodies from the EU and the US) called for consumers to be guaranteed the right to sue a seller in their country of residence and for the rapid revision of the Brussels Regulation on jurisdiction (see above). The EU and US were also urged to reach a swift agreement on the export of personal data from the EU and for greater protection of data gathered from healthcare sites on the internet. Participants also called for a clear system enabling consumers to identify unsolicited emails. Full texts available at: http://www.tacd.org

1.7 WTO - discussions begin on e-commerce and services
Following the failure of WTO members to agree in Seattle on a structure for a new round of trade talks, work has begun on the in-built agenda on services. The Council for Trade in Services (CTS) met in Geneva on 25 February and agreed to have a single working group in order to keep costs to a minimum for developing countries. Meanwhile, Commissioner Lamy has been in talks in Washington D.C. with his counterpart, Charlene Barshevsky, to discuss re-launching the Seattle process and completing the e-commerce work programme. He hopes that some progress will be possible before the US administration closes for the Presidential elections.

1.8 Commission to launch consultation on cyber-crime
The European Commission has announced in its work programme for 2000 a plan to publish a Communication on possible EU action against cyber-crime. This move follows consideration of the results of an external study on computer related crime submitted to the Commission end-1999. An internal discussion document setting out possible actions at EU level is currently under consideration in Member States. Proposals include the possible added-value of an EU Convention on computer-related crime, the creation of additional categories of illegal content and further approximation of national criminal laws. Discussion paper available ion request. Commission study available at: http://www2.echo.lu/lega/en/crime/crime.html

1.9 Commission launches public debate .eu domain
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the possibility of creating a ".eu" domain. This forms part of the eEurope initiative which aims to encourage the take-up of information society technologies by EU citizens and to increase its use in the public sector. The Commission Communication raises practical questions relating to the administration of the domain and the financing of the registration systems. Commissioner Liikanen is understood to have discussed the proposal with officials at ICANN, the international body responsible for internet registrations. Communication available at: http://www.ispo.cec.be/eif/internetpoliciessite/doteu/workdocen.html

1.10 Taxation - Commission experts to consider new proposal on VAT
The European Commission has circulated a discussion document to Member State tax experts ahead of a meeting in early March on how to move forward the debate on levying VAT on electronically traded goods and services. The document recognises that although Member States have made a commitment in principle to levying VAT in the country of consumption, it has been difficult to deliver politically. It is understood that this discussion document proposes interim measures which aims to address the main shortcomings of the current system. The Commission intends to propose a revision of the 6th VAT Directive in April and a new standard rate in October.

1.11 Trust marks - UK consumers' association exports system to other EU countries
The UK Consumers' Association has received support for its "Webtrader" trust mark scheme in 6 EU Member States and has been awarded _1.3m from the European Commission to help with further development. So far consumers' organisations in Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and Spain have indicated that they will adopt the scheme. Other EU countries may follow suit. Talks are also underway with Australia and New Zealand which has led to speculation that it may become a global norm. Meanwhile, the Consumers' Association has launched "Trust UK", a joint initiative with industry, which will accredit self-regulatory codes. Further details available on request and also at http://www.trustuk.org.uk

1.12 European Parliament members launch European Internet Foundation
Members of the European Parliament have launched a new think-tank on new technologies this month. The European Internet Foundation has been created as a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation for the development of thinking on e-commerce and related issues. The launch of the Foundation has been supported by corporate sponsorship. To date, these have been mainly telcos and ISPs. Further information available at: http://www.eifonline.org


2 Internet (content) regulation

2.1 European Commission offers assistance to the development of self-regulatory codes
As part of the first phase of the Action Plan Promoting the Safe Use of the Internet, the European Commission has published a call for proposals for financial assistance in developing self-regulatory codes of conduct which seek to protect internet users, mainly children, from harmful and illegal content. The Commission is offering funds of up to _800,000 for 12 months, with the possibility of extending support for a further 12 months. Further information available at: http://www.ispo.cec.be/iap/

2.2 Consumer lobby seeks a greater role in "self-regulation" of e-commerce
The Secretary General of BEUC, the European consumer lobby, has written a non-paper outlining his thoughts on the future of self-regulatory codes. His proposals were discussed at a joint meeting with industry organised by UNICE, the European employers confederation. The options included the incorporation industry codes in to primary law to "legitimise" self-regulation and a greater role for consumer bodies in the drafting of codes. These proposals were rejected by industry on the grounds that there was no added value to be gained from primary law and it would not give the required flexibility in the regulation of new services. The discussion has been left open but BEUC's views are known to be shared by researchers carrying out a study for the Consumer Protection DG on soft law. Non-paper available on request.


3 Copyright

3.1 Portuguese Presidency makes progress on compromise
The latest working group has moved a step closer to a common position on the draft Directive on copyright. A further meeting will be held on 13-14 March before the dossier is passed on to the permanent representatives (COREPER) in Brussels for preparation for the Internal Market Council on 16 March. The current text has received mixed views from rightholder groups. They remain concerned that the exemption for temporary copies is still too broad and that rightholders are not given adequate discretion regarding how to facilitate access to a work in order to benefit from an exemption. Disagreements remain among Member State delegates on the question of "equitable remuneration".

3.2 European Parliament gives its assent to the WIPO Treaties
The European Parliament has voted to give its assent to the WIPO Treaty on phonograms and the Treaty on copyright and related rights. This vote authorises the European Commission to deposit the instruments of ratification in Geneva on behalf of the EU once the Council of Ministers has given its assent also. Member States must also ratify the Treaties, since intellectual property is an area of shared competence between the national and EU level.


4 Advertising

4.1 European Parliament launches Commercial Communications Group
The European Parliament launched a Commercial Communications discussion Group end-February under the chairmanship of Edward Beysen MEP (B, ELDR). The group had failed to obtain the necessary political support to be an official parliamentary intergroup, but has been established as an ad hoc discussion forum instead. The initiative has been welcomed by the European Commission as an important channel for discussion between the two institutions on key issues such as the expert group, infringements and the forthcoming revision of EU advertising Directives and the broadcasting Directive. A second meeting will be held in Strasbourg on 11 April. Further details available on request.

4.2 Advertising to children - industry groups plan activity in the Parliament
The ChildrenÕs' Programme, a grouping of advertising industry bodies, is planning an exhibition in the European Parliament in September. The exhibition aims to raise awareness among Members of Parliament of the importance of advertising revenue to programme production. Further details available on request.


5 Audiovisual and general media policy

5.1 Portuguese Presidency holds conference on digital television
The Presidency hosted a conference on digital TV in Lisbon on 17-18 February to discuss technological and market aspects of new technologies in broadcasting, as well as policy development in the EU and beyond, and public interest objectives. The conference brought together Member States and EU officials, academics and industry experts. Most participants felt that the event had helped to advance the European debate and clarify the responsibilities of the EU and national level. It is understood that Portugal will raise the future of audiovisual policy at working group level during its Presidency.

5.2 New Director General for Culture & Education sets out his vision for the future
In an exchange of views with the European Parliament's Culture Committee, the new Director General of Culture & Education, Klaus van der Pas, pledged his full commitment to implementing the work programme for 2000 and overseeing the revision of broadcasting regulation in the EU. MEPs questioned the ability of his services to fulfil the programme. Van der Pas admitted that his Directorate General has undergone many changes which had taken their toll on staff, but he promised a new management structure which would make efficient use of the available resources and improve morale. Van der Pas hoped that the revised MEDIA programme would be adopted in the Autumn, and he pledged that Community aspects of public service broadcasting would be pursued.

5.3 Public service broadcasting - consultation on transparency Directive ends
The public consultation on the revision of the Commission Directive on the transparency of financial transfers between governments and public enterprises ended on 29 February. The Commission will now consider responses from interested parties before adopting the revised Directive. This is expected in May.

5.4 Commission holds meeting on state aid and film production
The European Commission held a meeting with Member State experts on 29 February regarding state support for film production. This consultation took place in the context of the forthcoming Decision on a community framework on state aid to cinema and TV production which is expected in June. This will be drafted by the Commission's competition services and forms part of the Commission's work programme for 2000.

5.5 Commission indicates shift in regulation of audiovisual works on-line
Sources within the European Commission have indicated that traditional audiovisual regulation cannot be extended to the internet. During the revision of the broadcasting Directive, it is expected that the current system of quotas for European quotas will be abandoned, together with the provisions on advertising. Broadcasting on the internet will be regulated horizontally. Simultaneous broadcasting will fall within the television without frontiers Directive, while video-on-demand and similar services would be considered information society services and be covered by the e-commerce Directive. There will also be a greater reliance on self-regulation, especially for on-line services. The revision process for content regulation will begin this year with a report on the implementation of the broadcasting Directive. A proposal for a revised Directive is expected in 2002.

5.6 European Commission plans to launch Media Prizes for European productions
Commissioner Viviane Reding has announced plans to launch a series of Media Prizes for European film productions. The details of the awards are still under discussion but it is hoped that the initiative will be launched in May and be accompanied by an annual European cinema day along side the Cannes Film Festival.


6 Environment

6.1 Packaging waste - draft revised Directive expected soon
The services of the European Commission dealing with environmental policy have indicated that a proposal to revise the packaging waste Directive will enter internal consultation within the Commission within the next two months. It is understood that plans to include waste from promotion gifts distributed with newspapers and magazines might not be included in this consultation. However, a number of Member States, including Germany, France, Denmark, Italy and Spain, are known to support the inclusion of these items in an annex to the Directive. Publishing federations have not ruled out the possibility that the issue may be raised again.


7 General

7.1 Commission launches work programme for 2000
The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, presented the Commission's work programme for 2000 to the European Parliament at its plenary session in February. The programme has been welcomed but is seen by many observers as ambitious. It includes many media initiatives including the implementation of the communications review and the revision of key advertising Directives and the broadcasting Directive. The commitment to adopt information society measures within the year is also reiterated. Full details available at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/off/work/index_en.htm

7.2 Data protection - EU & US working towards March deadline for agreement
Negotiators for the EU and the US have held another round of talks this month to try and remove the remaining obstacles to an agreement on the protection of data exported from the EU. The two sides have set a deadline of end-March to conclude the talks as Under Secretary of State, David Aaron, will be leaving the US Administration prior to the Presidential elections. Director General for the internal market, John Mogg, has indicated that the EU still has problems with certain provisions of the 'safe harbour' relating to access and treatment of public information.

7.3 Fundamental rights - drafting group report on progress towards an EU Charter
A drafting group set up to develop an EU Charter of fundamental rights has delivered its first progress report to the Council of Ministers this month having agreed its working methods and held preliminary discussions on the possible scope and content of the Charter. The group is made up of the President of the European Commission, members of national and European Parliaments and representatives of the Member States and has been set a deadline of June to deliver its first draft text. The latest meeting on 24 February discussed civil and political rights and general issues such as a limitation of rights. Once agreed, Member States will decide on whether to incorporate the Charter in to the Treaty. Further details available at: http://db.consilium.eu.int/df/default.asp?lang=eng

7.4 European Parliament holds hearing on data protection
The European Parliament held a hearing on 22-23 February hosted jointly by the Committee in Legal Affairs and the Committee on Citizens Rights and Freedoms. The hearing heard evidence from national experts on the working party which oversees the implementation of the EU Directive and US Congressmen on the role of self-regulation in the US. John Mogg, EU Director General for the internal market, made clear that EU citizens would not enjoy the same protection under the proposed 'safe harbour' rules, only "adequate" protection, and that the EU would be prepared to accept no deal rather than a bad deal. The hearing also discussed the protection of personal data collected in the context of EU police and judicial co-operation. Full report available on request.

7.5 Institutional reform - talks begin on revision of EU decision-making processes
The Portuguese Presidency opened the latest intergovernmental conference on Treaty reform on 14 February in Brussels. The conference is expected to agree the extension of qualified majority voting, the re-weighting of votes in the Council of Ministers and a reduction in the number of Commissioners. A preparatory group made up of Member State representatives is currently discussing which new policy areas could be subject to qualified majority voting. Discussions are expected to end in December under the French Presidency.

7.6 Telecoms competition - Commission launches consultation on competition in the local loop
The European Commission has launched a consultation on the unbundling of the local loop. A discussion document formed the basis of a hearing held with interested parties in Brussels on 22 February. The consultation process will remain open until 7 March when the Commission will begin drafting a Recommendation on the local loop which will contain provisions to encourage greater competition and lower prices for consumers. A number of options have been suggested but it is understood that the Commission favours full liberalisation. The document is available at: http://www.ispo.cec.be/infosoc/teelcompolicy/en/ullwd10b.pdf

7.7 Communication Review - Commission publishes background studies
The European Commission has published a series of background studies carried out in preparation for the drafting of The 1999 Communications Review. The documents have been published following calls from delegates at the public hearing held recently to canvas the views of interested parties on the Commission's proposals. The documents can be found at: http://www.ispo.cec.be/news.html

7.8 Postal services - Commission promises proposals for further liberalisation this year
During an exchange of views with the European Parliament's Regional Affairs Committee, Commissioner Bolkestein promised MEPs that his services would draft proposals for further liberalisation of postal services by June 2000 in accordance with the commitment to achieve full liberalisation of services by the target date of 2003. There is a strong north/south divide within the European Parliament on this question, and MEPs representing rural constituencies have expressed their concerns about the future of the universal service. Bolkestein has made clear that proposals would seek to fulfil basic requirements on quality and affordability and that cross-subsidisation by monopoly operators, especially for purchases, is forbidden.

Meanwhile, the two federations representing the privatised postal operators have merged to reinforce their lobby in favour of further liberalisation. The new federation is called the European Express Association and brings together the European Express Organisation and the Association of European Express Carriers. Further details available at: http://www.euroexpress.org

7.9 Company law - Council delays further discussion of European company statute
The Portuguese Presidency has recommended that the Council does not resume discussions on the proposal for a European company statute until after the Spanish elections in March. The Presidency has pledged to work towards a compromise but sees little chance of progress from the present Spanish government which has used its veto to block agreement.