Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum by the German Federal Economics Ministry

N.B.: Die aufgeziogten Antwortelemente binden die Bundesrepublik in keiner Weise. Es handelt sich um Einscha­tzungen der politischen Situation aus unserer Sicht.

Question 1:

In our view, the question of consumer confidence is one of the most crucial points for the development of e-commerce within Europe. We therefore have put our efforts in building up a stable and reliable policy framework on the national and European level. Regulations have been made or are underway in multiple fields such as privacy protection, e-commerce, consumer protection or copyright law.

  The stimulation of e-commerce will be dependent on both the offer and the demand of such services. On the offer side, we encourage start-up companies by loans, information and services in the field of venture capital. The demand of e-commerce services can be stimulated by programmes encouraging parts of society, that are underrepresented in the Internet (such as disabled persons, women or elderly persons) to participate in the Internet. The Federal government has launched several programmes to ensure an inclusive information society.

Question 2:

  In our view, the eEurope Action Plan offers realistic means for promoting e-commerce in Europe. It is largely in line with the goals set forth in the German Action Plan for Innovation and Jobs in the Information-Society of the 21st Century. We do think, that the key issues of e-commerce, that is skills (education and training), Internet for all, public administration and legal framework are treated in an encouraging way by the Action Plan. The German government will therefore support the Action Plan on the European Council in Feira on 19-20 June 2000.

Question 3:

  Codes of Conduct will play a very important role in the international regulation of the Internet. Efforts are already underway within the framework of the "Global Business Dialogue". The Federal Government supports national initiatives of self-regulations, that try to establish coherent criteria for e-commerce labels, such as the "Initiative D-21" of German companies. However, we do think, that there are areas, where self-regulation alone cannot solve the problems. This is particularly the case, when fundamental freedoms are at stake; this concerns for instance the areas of privacy, the protection of minors and of consumers. A clear regulatory framework helps to promote acceptance in the business to consumer field. In a net-society, these questions can often better be solved on a European level than on a national one.

Question 4:

  Most institutions endeavour to face the challenge of e-commerce as flexible and quickly as possible. However, the processes are—especially in the EU—too slow. It usually takes four years from the first proposal of the Commission to the implementation in the member states—often far longer. In contrast to the mid-nineties, the commission is currently lacking a coherent approach towards e-commerce. There are roughly 100 activities with relation to e-commerce without a recognisable and transparent strategy as the "Rolling Action Plan" once was. Especially the legal framework needs a coherent approach with respect to e-commerce, which is currently lacking and has potential to jeopardise the growth of e-commerce. The (informal) meeting of five Commissioners to co-ordinate the activities in the field of e-commerce is a step in the right direction, In addition, it is necessary to promote the dialogue between the government, industry and the users. The D-21 process—as mentioned above—or the Global Business Dialogue are means to speed up the processes and to raise awareness.

Question 5:

  We do think that new structures are not necessary, the existing structures have potential of an improvement of co-ordination as the "Rolling Action Plan" of the past demonstrated.

Question 6:

  In our view, the new method of "Open Co-ordination" set forth in Lisbon, is an adequate instrument for adapting the European society to the challenges of the Information-Society in a fast, efficient and decentralised way.

26 May 2000

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