Monday

19th Nov 2018

Opinion

Digital content directive makes data count for consumers

  • The digital content directive would introduce rights for consumers in case a game or music subscription they access online malfunctions. (Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

In a recent op-ed, Digital Europe’s John Higgins claimed that the proposed digital content directive threatened the apps development sector because of obligations to return consumer data at their request.

He also said that the European Commission’s proposal contradicts the general data protection regulation.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • In today’s digital economy, data has become a comparable asset, even though consumers are not aware of a deal taking place. (Photo: European Commission)

Consumer organisations argue the exact opposite: the digital content directive is vital to promote competition, innovation and to modernise consumer rights.

The Roman law principle "Do ut des" (I give so that you will give) expresses the idea that underpins all human economic interactions. Over past centuries, this required physical transactions, in the form of the exchange of money or goods.

In today’s digital economy, data has become a comparable asset, even though consumers are not aware of a deal taking place.

When consumers use mobile apps, social networks, review websites or any other digital service they have to accept terms and conditions which give the supplier the possibility to collect and use the consumer’s data.

Consumers deserve rights in return

Consequently, the consumer gets a digital service, while the provider uses his data for personalised advertising or other ways to make money.

This economic reality, according to industry figures, amounts to over 30% of the revenues generated online. It is an economic fact that can no longer be ignored by the EU legislator.

It is wrong to say, as Higgins does, that consumer law – such as the present digital content directive – would contradict data protection laws. On the contrary, they complement each other.

While data protection looks at the legal grounds for the collection and processing of personal data and the fundamental right to privacy, consumer law is about providing benchmarks for fairness in business-to-consumer transactions.

The digital content directive would introduce rights for consumers in case an online game or music subscription they access malfunctions. Such rights are currently absent in both consumer and data protection law at EU level.

It’s time to fill this gap, protect consumer adequately across the EU and establish a level playing field for companies.

One of the features of the proposed law is to give consumers the possibility to retrieve their data after the contract has been terminated. This right already exists under current data protection laws, but only for personal data.

The digital content directive provides the next step by covering other consumer data such as user-generated content, reviews or playlists – and not just metadata.

Consumers have a real interest to recover these data after for example switching services. But current consumer legislation does not address those situations.

The lack of regulation around data-based transactions goes beyond consumer law. Companies like Facebook or Google collect and process huge amounts of consumer data that often escape antitrust scrutiny.

As a matter of urgency, competition watchdogs must look at the role of data in today’s digital markets – such as the European Commission did in its recent Microsoft / LinkedIn merger decision.

Enforcers need rules to enforce

But more needs to be done to fully incorporate data as a parameter in competition law enforcement. Recognising data as an economic asset in consumer law – such as the digital content proposal – can be a path forward to achieve that goal.

Regulating data-based consumer transactions will bring legal certainty that market players expect from legislators. Companies cannot innovate if they don't know which consumer rights to apply if there's a problem with their digital product or service.

Enforcers cannot fulfil their public mandate if they do not have clear rules to enforce. Consumers will not trust digital services if they do not have control over their own data if things go wrong.

The draft directive is not perfect and there is always room for improvements.

However, contrary to Higgins’ claims, this is precisely the type of law that both, Europe’s digital economy and European consumers’ need.

Ursula Pachl is deputy director general of The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and leads the organisation’s work on the Digital Single Market and on consumer rights and enforcement.

Digital content directive threatens app development sector

The proposed new Digital Content Directive could create uncertainty because of conflicts with the General Data Protection Regulation and undermine growth of one of Europe's fastest growing job-creating sectors.

How Europe can harness its digital economy

While other sectors fall apart, Europe's digital economy is booming thanks to smaller countries like Estonia, Finland and Ireland. They need to shout louder about their ambitions.

Focus

EU agrees deadline for 5G internet plan

National governments agreed to free up bandwidth to be dedicated to mobile internet by 2020, although they insisted on a possible two-year extension.

EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation

EU foreign ministers will discuss Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday. The EU has the opportunity to show that it is not a political dwarf in the Balkans, where not only economic, but also political reforms are necessary.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  2. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  3. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  4. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  5. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  6. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  7. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  8. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  2. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  3. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  4. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  5. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  6. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  7. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  8. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us