At the beginning of the new EU deadline, much attention has already been paid to the importance of making Europe’s digital economy better for European consumers. Ensuring that the EU internal market embraces the digital reality and is less hampered by national barriers is a major challenge, but a challenge that EU policymakers must address in order to prevent the European economy from being disrupted global digital transformation remains behind.
And while much progress has been made on EU Digital Single Market rules, it is crucial to ensure that these rules are harmoniously intersected to protect consumers’ rights and to promote the interests of online businesses , For today, the online economy goes far beyond streaming music or buying a book online, and includes almost everything you can imagine – including a bet on the outcome of the next game of your favorite football team. EU regulation must keep pace. Here are five reasons why:
1: Online gambling is popular and inherently cross-border
Like every other activity, the advent of the Internet changed gambling. Less than 20 years ago, one fifth of European gambling is done online today. Today, EGBA member companies have 12 million European customers living in 19 EU countries who can now find the best deals online. The challenge in today’s limitless digital world is to ensure that these citizens use only gambling websites licensed in the EU and are fully protected by European consumer protection laws when playing online.
2: There is a patchwork of national rules and no single market
Although some EU rules apply to online gambling, such as the GDPR and the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, it is a sector that is almost entirely regulated by national policies. The result: 28 different national rules that deal with each other in isolation – leading to political fragmentation and divergence.
3: Current EU consumer protection standards are inadequate and vary considerably
Faced with this problem, the European Commission outlined in 2014 a list of safeguards that EU countries should take to ensure that European players experience a consistent and high level of online consumer protection. The Commission has undertaken to review its implementation by January 2017, but has recently acknowledged that it is not ready to measure the effectiveness of its own proposals. However, a recent study has found that only one EU country has fully implemented security measures and that there are major gaps in how players are protected across Europe, depending solely on where they live. For example, only 14 EU countries have a self-exclusion register for gambling recommended by the Commission, which prevents citizens from gaining access to gambling websites and is an important safety net for those who play too much. A recent European Parliament study found that closing these gaps would also save € 6 billion a year. To ensure a safer online gambling environment in all EU countries, the new Commission should first enforce its existing consumer protection proposals.
4: There is no formal framework for regulatory cooperation between EU countries
Every major European consumer market is served by regulatory cooperation between the market authorities, with the exception of online gambling. Previously, the Commission had supported a national expert group of gambling regulators, which dissolved them in 2018, although regulators considered them to be a great success and valuable platform for information sharing. There is now no formal framework for regulators to communicate at all, let alone tackle together the big problems that affect the sector, which are cross-border and require common solutions. In the absence of political coherence, greater cooperation between regulators is an essential requirement to promote the exchange of best practices and better alignment of national policies. The new Commission should reintroduce regulatory cooperation between national gambling regulators to ensure better policy coherence.
5: EU rules are not enforced in this sector
The Commission made these things even worse in 2017 when it decided to stop enforcing EU internal market law in this sector. Since then, it has systematically ignored any complaint about the application of EU law in EU countries. The effect: national authorities are aware that they do not have to worry about whether their policies are in line with EU law and how consumers and businesses are treated differently than in other EU countries. Any serious lawsuit should be given fair consideration, regardless of how much of a sector it is.
It may seem strange to hear of an industry that demands more EU regulation, not less. But the truth is that there are 28 different sets of rules, each with its own compliance requirements, which translates into significant administrative and regulatory costs for businesses. We need a set of rules that provides for better regulation of European online gambling activities, better protected citizens and clear rules for gambling companies.
Therefore, we call on EU policymakers to work together in this new EU term to create a better standard of protection for all European online citizens and internal market policies that are appropriate for the digital age.