E-commerce, digital market and data protection


E-commerce, digital market and data protection
online shopping, data, privacy, terms, conditions

To get to know about the EU Single Digital Strategy and how crafts businesses can take advantage of its opportunities. To raise awareness of new EU data protection regulations, their obligations for small undertakings and the impact they have in ecommerce operations.


In another training fiche, the one related to internationalisation, we already talked about the European Single Market, in place since 1992 and based in four principle freedoms: Goods, Capital, Services and People. The creation of a common market has catered for many opportunities for businesses and people.

With the rise of Internet and the use of information and communication technologies, further opportunities are within reach for companies to seize and prosper, including crafts, creative and cultural industries SMEs and micro SMEs. People and enterprises are buying and selling more and more through the net. In terms of ecommerce, studies suggest that only 4% of online services are EU cross-border operations between EU countries. Therefore, there is a long way to go to get the most of the Digital Single Market at European level.

In this training fiche, we intend to offer you an interesting reading menu for your business. It consists of two main courses: The first one with information on the EU Digital Strategy and how you can harness its potential and the second course related to ecommerce and data protection and what you can make out of the new EU Regulations in this sense. We hope you enjoy it. Bon appétit! 


• Digital Single Market.

Digital Single Market means that businesses and people can access online to goods and services regardless of their nationality and the country they lived in Europe. For businesses in general and craft and cultural industries in particular, ICT and digital technologies are increasingly becoming part of the business itself, either in the production processes of the business, or in the marketing side of the operations. It is estimated that 75% of the added value by the Digital Economy comes from traditional industries, rather than ICT producers, but the integration of digital technology by businesses is the weakest element. Only 1.7% of EU enterprises make full use of advanced digital technologies, while 41% do not use them at all. This can be said in many aspects about traditional small craft industries where the production processes are still as they used to be long ago and no integration of digital economy has taken place at all.

The common online market is seen as a huge opportunity for businesses and employment generation, and according to estimations, it could contribute €415 billion to the European economy. As a result, it will be a genuine source for market expansion, fostering the provision of higher quality services at affordable price, thus increasing competition and business development.

But at present, the situation is that markets are quite domestic in terms of online services. Data from the EU shows that only 7% of EU SMEs businesses sell cross-border. As those studies suggest barriers that do not exist in the physical single market are holding the EU back. Even so, 57 % of companies admit that they would sell online to other EU members is there were not such a myriad of different rules applying in each member state.

In this sense, for instance, it is paramount for crafts SMEs and Creative and Cultural Industries copyright harmonisation throughout Europe to remove the obstacles that are already hampering the sector development. In this way, transmission and consumption of cultural and creative content will be allowed with the positive impact for businesses and consumers. We have already described Intellectual Property features within the IP training fiche. Please, pay it a visit should you wish to know further about the different ways to protect your work.

The same could be said about VAT regulation for businesses selling in other member states. As part of the Single Digital Strategy the Commission has proposed VAT to be collected through a single and simplified electronic registration and payment mechanism. Again take a look to the training fiche on basic legal requirements to know more about this topic.

Finally, it is important to highlight the ICT skills improvement needed in all sectors in general and in the craft industries in particular. The Digital Strategy aims to address this skill mismatch and shortage of high qualified workers as part of the strategy. The study of Identification of Skill Needs in micro and craft enterprises up to 2020 states that the anticipation of future skill needs is particularly important for this type of enterprises as they are more generally affected by skill shortages, recruiting problems and external factors such as changing technologies.

• Data protection and privacy policies

A sound Digital Single Market able to boost future economy as we said earlier must strike a balance between business freedom to operate and consumers’ rights. Trust is key in this relationship as it is the right to privacy and personal data protection, especially in the digital economy where new trends include data analysis as one of the main elements of business development.

As stated in a 2015 Eurobarometer survey, eight out of 10 people feel that they do not have complete control of their personal data while two-thirds on their personal data online. The absence of trust in consumers means the loss of income for businesses. And ecommerce and online shopping is about consumer trust that when you entered your personal data and credit card number, that data will treated according to the established rules.

And those set or rules have become a barrier for businesses and do not defend consumers’ rights effectively to face the new threats posed by the rapid digital and technological changes. For instance, different regulations are applied in each different country. Therefore, when a business wish to undertake cross-border online operations it has to comply with the national legislation of the place where is selling online.

These current legislation at European level is about to change. And this will have an economic impact for businesses online services, including those of micro craft enterprises and culture and creative industries which are harnessing in many respects the digital economy opportunities.

The data protection reform package includes the General Data Protection Regulation that shall entry into force in 2018 in all member states. Businesses need to get ready to the new regulation to gain competitive advantages. The Commission believes that It will help realise the potentialities of the Single Digital Market for businesses we talked above by:

? Providing a single European law for data protection, replacing 28 different regulations. In this way companies will deal with one law. The benefits are estimated at €2.3 billion per year.

? One-stop-shop for businesses: companies will only have to deal with one single supervisory authority making it simpler and cheaper for companies to do business in the EU.

? The same rules for all companies – regardless of where they are established. With the new package reform companies based outside of Europe will have to apply the same rules when they offer goods or services on the EU market.

On top, the new regulation has specific advantages for SMEs in relation to the obligations of data controllers and processors imposed to companies. Obligations such as hiring a data protection officer, keeping records of processing activities or reporting breaches to individuals, will be reduced or eliminated for SMEs, which should be good news for craft enterprises and creative and culture industries. Still, you have two year to put all the systems in place for the new regulations.

• E-commerce and data protection

Electronic commerce and online shopping are here to stay and be further developed. If we assume that reality our businesses will be able to take full advantage of the global market that is out there waiting for our products.

These new ways of doing things for traditional crafts micro enterprises are not easy. Practical difficulties like new payment methods, proper delivery of the goods that are bought, fraud and criminality, risk of disputes...) make things more difficult, but the benefits outgrow the difficulties.

According to a recent communication from the Commission about a coherent framework for building trust in the digital single market for e-commerce and online services, SMEs will benefit by accessing new markets and cloud computing, thus, enhancing their productivity.

The Electronic Commerce Directive, adopted in 2000, sets up an Internal Market framework for electronic commerce, which provides legal certainty for business and consumers. It establishes harmonised rules on issues such as the transparency and information requirements for online service providers, commercial communications, electronic contracts and limitations of liability of intermediary service providers.

In any event, when you think of selling online you must be clear about your private policies and data protection and make them clear as well to your customers. Terms and conditions should be highlighted in your site and specify that buyers are entering into a contract to when they buy goods or service from your website. Policies about delivery, shipping, refunds and payments, and whenever possible, exclusions of liability should be made clear to your buyers. In this way you build trust and confidence which is key for your success.


One of the main expected results of this training fiche is for you to realise the potentialities of the Single Digital Market for your business. There are opportunities to seize for those that are prepared and motivated. It is hard job, we know, but as we have stated in different training fiches, there are a wealth of entities willing to provide aid and support to take advantage of the Single Market in all its dimensions.

New reforms on data protection and privacy policies are entering into force soon. If by reading this training fiche we draw your attention to the fact that you need to get your procedures in place and ready to gain competitive edge, we will be more than satisfied.


As a clear indicator is that you start to update your business policies to the new reformed regulations. Even being a small craft enterprise type, if you are thinking of selling online, you need to adapt to the new Data Protection Regulation that will entry into force in 2018. We have already stated that this new regulation will reduce obligations for SMEs but still you will have to.

You must understand your obligations and put in place mechanisms to make you compliant with them.

With the new regulation on data protection and privacy policy, being an SMEs:



You will not need to  appoint a data protection officer unless your activity require regular and systematic monitoring of the data subjects on a large scale or if they process special categories of personal data.



you will not be obliged to keep records of processing activities unless the processing your business carry out is not occasional or likely to result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of data subject.



There will be no obligation to report all data breaches to individuals, unless the breaches represent a high risk for their rights and freedoms.

You have set a clear policy on terms and conditions on your website as we have mentioned above.

The process of shipping and delivery of your goods is clearly stated in your website too as most online shopping is cross-border. It is important that your customers know when to expect their products and how their packages will be delivered. By making your shipping information clear and within your terms and conditions, you can prevent any problems from arising. This will reduce claims and disputes. We have already discussed international logistics in another training fiche. Please, have a look at it.

Have a clear refund policy. Accepting that refunds are a natural part of the business, and responding promptly in handling refund requests will help assure customers that you care. Include your refunds policy on your site and certainly within your terms and conditions so that buyers can see what they are getting into.

 Learning Outputs
Online learning and face to face learning


Information on the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe can be accesses through:


It is also of interest to have a look at the Communication from the Commission: A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe (SWD 2015 – 100 Final)


Identification of future skills needs in micro and craft(-type) enterprises up to 2020. Final report.  FBH. Study financed by the European Union.


Commission Communication: A coherent framework for building trust in the Digital Single Market for e-commerce and online services. COM (2011) 942 Final.