Insights Government publishes Guidance on the E-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) and the UK

In short, the E-Commerce Directive no longer applies to the UK now that the transition period is over. The Guidance applies to all providers of online services and sets out the steps to take in response to the changes.

The Guidance explains that rules relating to online activities in European Economic Area (EEA) countries may newly apply to UK online service providers who operate in the EEA now that the transition period is over.

The Directive allows EEA online service providers to operate in any EEA country, while only following relevant rules in the country in which they are established. This framework no longer applies to UK providers as the UK has left the EEA and the transition period is over. Providers should therefore consider whether their services were previously in scope of the Directive, and if so, ensure that they are compliant with relevant requirements in each EEA country they operate in. The Government also recommends seeking legal advice.

The Government says that it intends to fully remove the Directive’s Country of Origin principle from UK legislation to bring EEA online service providers in scope of UK laws, which they were previously exempt from. As this principle is found in a number of pieces of legislation it will be removed at different points, when Parliamentary time allows.

The Guidance covers checking whether an organisation is in scope, the meaning of “place of establishment”, checking for new legal requirements, what is not covered by the Directive, and recommendations as to next steps. To access the Guidance, click here.