Proposal for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content

The Digital Single Market Strategy adopted by the Commission on 6 May 2015 announced a legislative initiative on harmonised rules for the supply of digital content and online sales of goods. This initiative is composed of (i) a proposal on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content, and (ii) a proposal on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods.

The general objective of the proposals is to contribute to faster growth of the Digital Single Market, to the benefit of both consumers and businesses. By eliminating the key contract law-related barriers hindering cross-border trade, the rules put forward in the proposals will reduce the uncertainty faced by businesses and consumers due to the complexity of the legal framework and the costs incurred by businesses resulting from differences in contract law between Member States. The initiative will increase consumer trust by providing uniform rules with clear consumer rights.

Consumers suffer detriment due to lack of clear contractual rights for faulty digital content. Digital content covers a wide range of items, such as music, movies, apps, games, films, cloud storage services or broadcasts of sport events. Consumers are also not confident when buying online across borders. One of the major reasons is their uncertainty about their key contractual rights. As a result, they miss opportunities and face a narrower range of offers at less competitive prices.

This proposal (de) aims at filling the current legal gap in the consumer acquis at EU level regarding certain contractual aspects for which there are currently no rules. In addition, the proposal tackles two contractual rights – modification and termination of long term contracts. The proposal is compatible with the existing EU rules on applicable law and jurisdiction in the Digital Single Market. These rules aim at protecting consumers inter alia in the Digital Single Market by giving them the benefit of the non-derogable rules of the Member State in which they are habitually resident.

Together with the proposed new contract rules for the purchase of digital content as set out in this proposal, the existing rules on private international law establish a clear legal framework for buying and selling in a European digital market, which takes into account both consumers’ and businesses’ interests.

The Digital Single Market Strategy intends to deal with all major obstacles to the development of cross-border e-commerce in the Digital Single Market in a holistic manner. The proposal should be seen in the context of this holistic approach. The Strategy covers among others the initiatives related to the cross-border portability of content, role of platforms, the Free Flow of Data, European Cloud, VAT related burden and parcel delivery.

Especially, in the context of the cross-border portability of content and European Cloud, the Strategy envisages decisive actions towards ensuring portability and interoperability of content, which is crucial for the supply of digital content within the EU. The proposal will also be consistent with the general EU framework on copyright and will be without prejudice to any rights and obligations according to copyright law.