EuroCommerce InBrief | Issue 194 | 7 July 2020

Ohessa ajankohtaista tietoa EuroCommercen 7.7. uutiskirjeestä lainattuna:

EuroCommerce launches Policy Talks with webinar featuring Trade Commissioner Hogan

EuroCommerce organised the first of a series of “EuroCommerce Policy Talks” on “Protectionism vs. Recovery and growth post-COVID“ with Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan. The Commissioner thanked retailers and wholesalers on behalf of the European Commission for the sector’s decisive action to protect the health and livelihoods of our people, whilst ensuring the continuous supply of food and other essential goods to consumers. He spoke of the Commission trade policy review (see story below) and the proposed “open strategic autonomy” he advocated for Europe. The likely deep and sudden recession needed trade and commercial engines to be firing on all cylinders for Europe to recover as quickly, as fairly, and as sustainably as possible. EuroCommerce Vice-President Jürgen Roth, who was connected live from the WKÖ Export Day in Vienna with more than 5,000 participants, replied to the Commissioner and underlined the important role of the digital transformation and SMEs in global trade. If you missed the webinar, you can catch the video recording here.

Payments: Commission report on the impact of the Interchange Fees Regulation consultation on EU payments strategy; launch of European Payments Initiative

The Commission last week, published their report on the impact of the 2015 Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) for card-based payments. As we had identified ahead of its publication, the report stated the IFR had achieved its objectives, and needed no further amendment. A copy of their press release and accompanying report can be found here, and the EuroCommerce response in its press release and a 4 page summary paper detailing why action is necessary. This will be used to lobby MEPs and Member States for the Commission to act, ahead of a public meeting with stakeholders on 7 December, 2020 where we will again be pressing for the regulation of fees not covered by the IFR, which are rising so quickly as to negate the benefit of the regulation. Meanwhile, EuroCommerce submitted its input to a Commission consultation on a retail payments strategy for the EU. A copy of the questions and responses can be found here. We particularly highlighted the need for effective regulation of global payment scheme operators, as well as standardising and harmonising interoperable retail payments; authentication models providing a seamless consumer experience for in-store and remote mobile payments); clarifying the definition of a contactless payment using mobile devices; ensuring interoperability and standardized access to instant payments infrastructures and re-aligning cross-border “cardholder present” and “cardholder not present transactions”. Finally, a group of 16 European banks announced last week the launch of a European Payments Initiative (EPI) to challenge the market position of Mastercard and Visa. A copy of the announcement and EuroCommerce press release responding is here.

Wholesale group discusses Industrial Strategy and Recovery Plan with DG GROW

Slawomir Tokarski, DG GROW Director briefed wholesale group members on the Commission’s impact analysis of the COVID-19 crisis on Europe’s economy and proposed recovery plan (see presentation). The ecosystems approach would be central to the Commission’s approach in identifying investment needed across industries to drive digital and sustainability transition and build resilience. Other players such as airlines or the construction industry had expressed strong interest and commitment in the transition. Mr Tokarski was keen to gain a better understanding of the needs in our ecosystem. The discussion also allowed members to highlight the impact of the crisis on their sectors and the specific and important role they played in industrial ecosystems.

Competition: EuroCommerce proposes amendments to the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and responding to consultation on Market Definition

The EuroCommerce Board last week approved proposed amendments to the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and guidelines, reflecting concerns we highlighted in our consultation response last year and the major offensive by suppliers to take more control of distribution channels and impose potentially unjustified, discriminatory or opaque restrictions, with the effect of chilling competition, and affecting consumer prices, choice and innovation. The document, developed with legal advisers Contrast Law will now be sent to DG COMP and other relevant DGs. We will further encourage members to share it with their national competition authorities who will have a role in the review process through the European Competition Authorities Network (ECN). At the same time, the Commission has opened a public consultation on the revision of the Market Definition Notice. This is a central part of EU Competition Law, but has not been updated since 1997. The proposed revision seeks to take better account of digitalisation and globalisation, but also to reflect where no change is needed. EuroCommerce contributed to the inception impact assessment process earlier this year and will be working over the summer to provide a response by the deadline on 9 October.

DSA: EuroCommerce responds to initial consultations on digital platforms and ex ante regulation/ New Competition Tool

Last week, EuroCommerce submitted its response to three roadmaps on the Digital Services Act package initiative, the first of which covered deepening the internal market and clarifying responsibilities for digital services. The other two responses here, covered Commission roadmaps on an ex ante platform instrument and a New Competition Tool. The ex ante instrument seeks to define “online platforms acting as gatekeepers” and possibly develop a list of restricted practices. We have sought further justification of the need for this instrument and clarity on which platforms it would cover. The New Competition Tool goes beyond platforms and seeks new Commission powers to prevent markets from tipping and address wider structural problems with competition. We have pressed for more evidence of the need for such a tool, for clear legal safeguards and due process. The Commission has already opened public consultations on both proposals, with a deadline of 8 September. EuroCommerce is organising two workshops looking into EU product compliance law and liability of online marketplaces on 13 and 15 July. Baker McKenzie will present a legal analysis commissioned by EuroCommerce. The Commission itself is also organising a number of workshops on the Digital Services Act (mainly focussing on the internal market) on 8, 10, 13 and 17 July. EuroCommerce will be speaking at the workshop on 13 July. Click here for the progamme. You can register for the Commission workshop until today COB via salihovic@eurocommerce.eu.

Meetings with Reynders cabinet head and DG JUST on Rule of Law

Christian Verschueren last week met Genevieve Tuts, Head of Cabinet of Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders. Tuts emphasised that rule of law was a major priority for Reynders, and welcomed all inputs. Vice-President Jourova has coordinated Commission work on rule of law, but Reynders was responsible for the annual rule of law report. In another meeting last week, EuroCommerce and members met Head of the DG JUST Unit on Rule of Law, Niovi Ringou to discuss the upcoming annual report due in September. This will focus on the functioning of the justice system, anti-corruption framework, media pluralism and other checks and balances in Member States. EuroCommerce has already contributed to a consultation prior to the report. We highlighted the discriminatory and restrictive measures foreign retailers faced in Central and Eastern Europe. Ringou said that this year’s report focused less on business or Single Market issues, but these would be taken into account in next year’s report.

Commission challenges restrictive Slovak law and closes case against Romanian Food Law

Last week, the Commission opened an infringement procedure against the Slovak Inappropriate Conditions Act. This law obliges retailers to include at least 50% of Slovak products in their promotions, limits logistics bonuses, abolishes the suspensory effect of administrative appeals on e.g. €1 million fines, and restricts purchasing prices. The Commission case follows a complaint filed against Slovakia by EuroCommerce in collaboration with or Slovak member association SAMO. The Commission also announced closure of the case against the Romanian Food Law, which obliged retailers to source 51% of food products via short supply chains, promote and display Romanian products and prohibited listing fees. EuroCommerce and our Romanian member association AMRCR raised the law to the Commission in 2016, and Romania amended it earlier this year, removing all the contested provisions.

Commission launches consultation for New Consumer Agenda

Last week, the Commission presented to EuroCommerce members the package of measures on which it has launched consultations: an overarching non-legislative communication that will focus on the digital and green transition, consumer rights and empowerment. This is to be accompanied by three legislative initiatives: empowering consumers for the green transition (dealing with early product obsolescence and ‘greenwashing’), a review of the General Product Safety Directive reviewing the legal framework for non-harmonised products and RAPEX, and the review of the Consumer Credit Directive. EuroCommerce will contribute to the roadmaps, and the consultation (which will cover all 4 initiatives); stakeholders are also invited by the Commission to submit more detailed papers. Deadline is 6 October.

European Commission publishes report on review of General Data Protection Regulation

The European Commission has published its long-anticipated review report on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since it entered into force 2 years ago. The report sees the GDPR as having raised awareness and empowered individuals to exercise their rights and no change needed to adjust to digital age. It is critical of Member States’ unwillingness to provide sufficient resources to their national Data Protection Authorities, and of the fragmentation from divergent national interpretation of the GDPR. It warns that it will resort to infringement procedures if necessary to ensure that Member states comply with the GDPR. The Commission calls for more cooperation between the national Data Protection Authorities and the need for harmonisation when dealing with cross-border cases. It also announces creation of a Data Protection Academy, facilitating exchanges and cooperation between EU and foreign data protection authorities. EuroCommerce commented on the report here.

Trade: Commissioner Hogan announces review of EU trade policy, latest WTO trade figures and Commission barriers report

Trade Commissioner Hogan recently presented a virtual stakeholder meeting in which EuroCommerce participated with his review of the EU’s trade policy. The updated policy approach will seek to support sustainability and digital transformations, pursue a model of ‘open strategic autonomy’, reaping the benefits of openness, while protecting Europe from unfair practices. It will look to updating the multilateral rulebook, including WTO reform, strengthening EU resilience to deal with future challenges and getting maximum value from the network of EU trade deals. The Commission has launched a public consultation, open until 15 September, to which we will respond, and are seeking members’ input. The WTO issued new figures which show that World trade fell sharply in the first half of this year. The volume of trade shrank by 3 percent in the first quarter compared to a year earlier, but this changed dramatically, falling 18.5 percent in the second quarter. WTO chief Roberto Azevêdo has argued that things could have been a lot worse, and that output and trade could rebound strongly in 2021. But this would need fiscal, monetary and trade policies to be coordinated precisely. The Commission has published its Trade Barriers Report 2019. This identifies 438 existing trade barriers globally, of which 43 were imposed last year by 22 different countries. Chinese and Russian markets were the worst offenders with 38 and 31 measures respectively. The report finds that 80 % of the EU exports are affected by trade barriers. In 2019, some 40 trade and investment barriers were resolved in 20 different countries. The barriers removed generated additional exports of some €8 billion in 2019. In the area of agri-food products, 26 out of 40 barriers were removed.

EuroCommerce responds to roadmap for Sustainable Chemicals

EuroCommerce has responded to the roadmap consultation ahead of a Commission Communication expected after the summer on a “Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability”, part of the Commission’s ambition for a toxic free environment under the European Green Deal. This aims to reduce risks associated with producing and using chemicals and to simplify and strengthen EU chemical rules. We repeated the main points of our earlier contributions to the fitness check of chemicals legislation, the last REACH review and on the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation. The latter is particularly important in the drive to increasing recycled content in new products under the Circular Economy Action plan. The European Parliament’s ENVI Committee has adopted 35 compromise amendments to its draft Resolution on the same topic, calling for strengthening the chemicals framework, sustainable sourcing of materials and energy intensity in production and firm deadlines in the action plan on perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS). The Council already adopted its conclusions on chemicals last year, highlighting the need to improve and mainstream chemical risk assessment and management of chemicals across EU legislation. In the Council Conclusions on a separate communication – More circularity – Transition to a sustainable society, the Council emphasised traceability, transparency and information exchange as key building blocks for the upcoming strategy.

Energy labelling database EPREL shows full registration of products covered by the latest energy labelling regulations

The European Product Database for Energy Labelling (EPREL) has been updated to list the full registration of new product groups covered by the energy labelling regulations updated in 2019. This also allows users to produce their own new labels including the QR code and fiches for the following products: electronic displays (Regulation (EU) 2019/2013), refrigerating appliances (Regulation (EU) 2019/2016), household washing machines (Regulation (EU) 2019/2014), household washer-driers (Regulation (EU) 2019/2014), household dishwashers (Regulation (EU) 2019/2017) and refrigerating appliances with direct sales function. Since January 2019 manufacturers, importers and authorised representatives need to register their appliances, and an energy label in EPREL, before selling them on the European market. The new energy labelling regulations that entered into force at the end of 2019 re-scaled the energy labels for existing product groups. From 1 March 2021 the new re-scaled energy labels will appear, with the exception of light sources, for which the deadline after which the new label has to be used is 1 September 2021. Further information can be found at a dedicated Commission website on eco-design and energy labelling.