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Internet firms to be subject to new EU cybersecurity rules

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Consumer protection

How the EU aims to boost consumer protection

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Find out how the EU aims to boost consumer protection and adapt it to new challenges such as the green transition and the digital transformation. Society 

As the economy becomes more global and digital, the EU is looking at new ways to protect consumers. During the May plenary, MEPs will debate the digital future of Europe. The report focuses on removing barriers to the functioning of the digital single market and improving the use of articial intelligence for consumers.

Infographic illustration on consumer protection in the European Union
Reinforcing consumer protection  

New consumer agenda

Parliament is also working on the new consumer agenda strategy for 2020-2025, focusing on five areas: green transition, digital transformation, effective enforcement of consumer rights, specific needs of certain consumer groups and international cooperation.

Making it easier to consume sustainably

The 2050 climate neutrality goal is a priority for the EU and consumer issues have a role to play - through sustainable consumption and the circular economy.

Infographic illustration on Europeans support tackling climate change
Sustainable consumption  

In November 2020, MEPs adopted a report on a sustainable single market calling on the European Commission to establish a so-called right to repair to make repairs systematic, cost efficient and attractive. Members also called for labelling the lifespan of products as well as measures to promote a culture of reuse, including guarantees on pre-owned goods.

They also want measures against purposefully designing products in a way that makes them obsolete after a certain time and reiterated demands for a common charger.

The Commission is working on right to repair rules for electronics and legislation on the environmental footprint of products to enable consumers to compare.

The review of the Sale of Goods Directive, planned for 2022, will look into whether the current two-year legal guarantee could be extended for new and pre-owned goods.

In September 2020, the Commission launched the sustainable products initiative, under the new Circular Economy Action Plan. It aims to make products fit for a climate-neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy while reducing waste. It will also address the presence of harmful chemicals in products such as electronics and ICT equipment, textiles and furniture.

Making the digital transformation safe for consumers

The digital transformation is dramatically changing our lives, including how we shop. To help EU consumer rules catch up, in December 2020 the Commission proposed a new Digital Services Act, a set of rules to improve consumer safety across online platforms in the EU, including online marketplaces.

MEPs want consumers to be equally safe when shopping online or offline and want platforms such as eBay and Amazon to step up efforts to tackle traders selling fake or unsafe products and to stop fraudulent companies using their services.

MEPs also proposed rules to protect users from harmful and illegal content online while safeguarding freedom of speech and called for new rules on online advertising giving users more control.

Given the impact of artificial Intelligence, the EU is preparing rules to manage its opportunities and threats. Parliament has set up a special committee and emphasises the need for human centric legislation. The Parliament has proposed a civil liability regime for artificial intelligence that establishes who is responsible when AI systems cause harm or damage.

Strengthening the enforcement of consumer rights

EU countries are responsible for enforcing consumer rights, but the EU has a coordinating and supporting role. Among the rules it has put in place are the directive on a better enforcement and modernisation of consumer law and rules on collective redress.

Addressing specific consumer needs

Vulnerable consumers such as children, elderly people or people living with disabilities, as well as people in financial difficulties or consumers with limited access to the internet need specific safeguards. In the new consumer agenda, the Commission plans to focus on problems with internet accessibility, financially vulnerable consumers and products for children.

The Commission’s plans include more offline advice for consumers with no internet access as well as funding to improve the availability and quality of debt advice services for people in financial difficulties.

Because children are particularly vulnerable to harmful advertising, Parliament has approved stricter rules for audiovisual media services for audiovisual media services.

Guaranteeing the safety of products sold in the EU

Consumers often purchase goods manufactured outside the EU. According to the Commission, purchases from sellers outside the EU increased from 17% in 2014 to 27% in 2019 and the new consumer agenda highlights the need for international cooperation to ensure consumer protection. China was the largest supplier of goods to the EU in 2020, so the Commission will work on an action plan with them in 2021 to increase the safety of products sold online.

In November 2020, Parliament passed a resolution calling for greater efforts to ensure that all products sold in the EU are safe, whether manufactured within or outside the EU or are sold online or offline.

Next steps

Parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee is working on the Commission proposal for the new consumer agenda. MEPs are expected to vote on it in September.

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Business

Silk Road Coin (SRC) transforms commodity trade

Colin Stevens

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We're all used to the idea of digital currency - spending and receiving money that isn’t physically in front of us. But digital currencies still remain something of a mystery, writes Colin Stevens.

How might we use money in the future and whether we can even trust digital currencies such as cryptos are just two of the many questions being asked. Yet, its easy to see how digital currencies transforming the global trade and money movement.

Two major new reports, just published, seek to help us better understand this cryptic kind of currency and also dispel some of the myths surrounding the new technology.

One of the new entrants to this market is Silk Road Coin (SRC), a digital “utility token” designed to digitalise trade in Europe and New Silk Road Area.

LGR has developed a SRC business ecosystem, blockchain based digital environment which combines cross border money movement, trade finance and global supply chain and where SRC is used to fuel trade between buyers, traders and sellers. The SRC business ecosystem provides multi-dimensional perspective for physical goods and money movement in trade finance. It allows financial visibility and more efficient cash management supported by financial planning. The SRC business ecosystem also enables efficient supply chain finance through PO financing, factoring, payment option swaps etc. Furthermore the financial services solution reduces trade finance, money movement and currency exchange risks and costs.

From the global supply chain perspective, SRC business ecosystem uses SRC to issue smart contract, collects and validate trading documents in real time bases and so detect and fraud or discrepancies. It also deploys smart containers that provide data insights and requirements are to enforce and ensure the successful transport of products. To eliminate product loss, safety issues, blind spots and discovery for continuous monitoring and improvements. All this assures higher visibility of end-to-end supply chain and reduced product warehousing and wastage.

The use of SRC in the SRC business ecosystem therefore provides many financial benefits to its owners and drives down total transaction cost.

We estimate that SRC can be adopted by 80% of companies trading in Europe and China, which make up to one third of the total world population.

A separate White Paper, also by LGR Global, says that for those looking for a “comprehensive trading ecosystem”, SRC in SRC business ecosystem, provides stability and predictability and ultimately save costs. In the SRC business ecosystem, SRC is the only mechanism for trading partners to access to SRC business ecosystem services. Therefore, SRC will transform the trade in the Europe and New Silk Road which makes SRC “a great investment opportunity.”

LGR Global chose to establish itself in the European Union, specifically in Estonia which is renowned for a blockchain-friendly yet rigorous regulatory environment. LGR Global, is so convinced of the potential benefits that it plans to launch a Digital Trade Finance Platform in the New Silk Road Area (Europe-Central Asia-China). It is worth recalling perhaps that the New Silk Road Area is huge, consisting of 68 countries, many with their own currencies. Cross-border trade here means that the companies and stakeholders that participate in economic transactions are consequently faced with increased operational and other risks in comparison to other geographical areas.

The Silk Road Area itself has been the recipient of international attention of late due to enhanced trade and growth, as well as increased business partnerships between Europe and China. Foreign ownerships and subsidiary development are also on the rise, leading to a drastic increase in international trade and cross-border money movement transactions.

This is an area which represents 60% of the global population, 33% of the world’s GDP, and posts incredibly high and consistent rates of economic growth.

LGR Global CEO Ali Amirliravi said: “While for many companies the Covid-19 might have slowed their operations down for LGR and SRC business ecosystem it has been a great growth opportunity”. Due to Covid-19, the multi-commodity trading transactions, which are traditionally been dominated by big banks, are now facing new era. The LGR policy paper says the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted problems that currently exist in international trade, cross-border finance and global supply chains.

It says that within the multi commodity trading industry, overall trading volumes have moderately decreased. At the same time, first, high supply chain financing and money movement costs and bank delays have begun to critically impact the profitability of multi-commodity trading companies.

Second, due to inefficiencies in global supply chain, companies today have very low predictability and visibility whether they goods will arrive and when. Therefore, companies use excessive safety stock to protect themselves from any supply chain disruption, which again lead to high working capital levels.

The report says that due to Covid-19, some key changes have occurred in the commodity trading industry – leading to a sudden increase for “digital trade finance solutions.”

The global Covid-19 crisis has also demonstrated the need for immediate action within international supply chains and markets, says the report, adding, “It is a critical time for infrastructure upgrades, digitalisation and increased transparency. While the pandemic has caused a lot of negative effects on the global scale, a potential positive impact is that it has made clear to the industry and the public at large that changes do need to be made to optimize processes and improve the overall functioning of international trade and trade finance.”

In summary, LGR Global says the Silk Road Coin offers a secure and controlled business environment that can revolutionize international commodity trade in a fast growing market.

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Digital economy

Digital transformation: Importance, benefits and EU policy

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Learn how the EU is helping to shape a digital transformation in Europe to benefit people, companies and the environment. The digital transformation is one of the EU's priorities. The European Parliament is helping to shape the policies that will strengthen Europe's capacities in new digital technologies, open new opportunities for businesses and consumers, support the EU's green transition and help it to reach climate neutrality by 2050, support people's digital skills and training for workers, and help digitalize public services, while ensuring the respect of basic rights and values, Society .

MEPs are preparing to vote on a report on shaping the digital future of Europe, calling on the Europea Commission to further tackle challenges posed by the digital transition, especially to take advantage of the opportunities of the digital single market and to improve the use of artificial intelligence. What is digital transformation? 

  • Digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies by companies and the impact of the technologies on society.  
  • Digital platforms, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and artificial intelligence are among the technologies affecting ... 
  • ... sectors from transport to energy, agri-food, telecommunications, financial services, factory production and health care, and transforming people's lives. 
  • Technologies could help to optimise production, reduce emissions and waste, boost companies' competitive advantages and bring new services and products to consumers. 

Funding of the EU's digital priorities

Digital plays an essential role in all EU policies. The Covid crisis accentuated the need for a response that will benefit society and competitiveness in the long run. Digital solutions present important opportunities and are essential to ensuring Europe's recovery and competitive position in the global economy.

The EU's plan for economic recovery demands that member states allocate at least 20% of the €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility to digital transition. Investment programmes such as the research and innovation-centred Horizon Europe and infrastructure-centred Connecting Europe Facility allocate substantial amounts for digital advancements as well.

While the general EU policy is to endorse digital goals through all programmes, some investment programmes and new rules specifically aim to achieve them.

Digital Europe programme

In April 2021, Parliament adopted the Digital Europe programme, the EU’s first financial instrument focused specifically on bringing technology to businesses and people. It aims to invest in digital infrastructure so that strategic technologies can help boost Europe’s competitiveness and green transition, as well as ensure technological sovereignty. It will invest €7.6bn in five areas: supercomputing (€2.2bn), arfitifical intelligence (€2.1bn), cybersecurity (€1.6bn), advanced digital skills (€0.6bn), and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society (€1.1bn).

Online safety and platform economy

Online platforms are an important part of the economy and people's lives. They present significant opportunities as marketplaces and are important communication channels. However, there also pose significant challenges.

The EU is working on new digital services legislation, aiming to foster competitiveness, innovation and growth, while boosting online security, tackling illegal content, and ensuring the protection of free speech, press freedom and democracy.

Read more on why and how the EU wants to regulate the platform economy.

Among measures to ensure safety online, the Parliament adopted new rules to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online in April 2021. MEPs are also considering rules on a new European cybersecurity centre.

Artificial intelligence and data strategy

Artificial intelligence (AI) could benefit people by imroving health care, making cars safer and  enabling tailored services. It can improve production processes and bring a competitive advantage to European businesses, including in sectors where EU companies already enjoy strong positions, such as the green and circular economy, machinery, farming and tourism.

To ensure Europe makes the most of AI's potential, MEPs have accentuated the need for human-centric AI legislation, aimed at establishing a framework that will be trustworthy, can implement ethical standards, support jobs, help build competitive “AI made in Europe” and influence global standards. The Commission presented its proposal for AI regulation on 21 April 2021.

Read more on how MEPs want to regulate artificial intelligence.

The success of AI development in Europe ilargely depends on a successful European data strategy. Parliament has stressed the potential of industrial and public data for EU companies and researchers and called for European data spaces, big data infrastructure and legislation that will contribute to trustworthiness.

More on what Parliament wants for the European data strategy.

Digital skills and education

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important digital skills are for work and interactions, but has also accentuated the digital skills gap and the need to increase digital education. The Parliament wants the European skills agenda to ensure people and businesses can take full advantage of technological advancements.

42% of EU citizens lack basic digital skil

Fair taxation of the digital economy

Most tax rules were established well before the digital economy existed. To reduce tax avoidance and make taxes fairer, MEPs are calling for a global minimum tax rate and new taxation rights that would allow more taxes to be paid where value is created and not where tax rates are lowest.

Other interesting articles to check out

More on Europe's digital policies 

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