Tuesday, 23 October 2018

UK Govt Gives Consumers and Cross-border Traders a Dose Of #BrexitReality

Friday is never always the best day for the UK government to call people's attention to important issues. And so it proved with the critical alert on the impact of a 'No Deal' Brexit on your consumer rights. But just in case you did happen to be more concerned with wrapping up your week or queuing all day for a phantom train to your weekend destination, here's at least one key paragraph amongst all the gumph pearls of bureaucratic wisdom:
As the UK will no longer be a Member State, there may be an impact on the extent to which UK consumers are protected when buying goods and services in the remaining Member States. The laws of those states are similar but may differ in some areas to UK law both as respective laws evolve over time as well as due to differing levels of harmonisation between Member States in some areas. UK consumers will also no longer be able to use the UK courts effectively to seek redress from EU based traders, and if a UK court does make a judgement [er, judgment for court decisions], the enforcement of that judgement (sic) will be more difficult as we will no longer be part of the EU. In addition, there will no longer be reciprocal obligations on the UK or EU Member States to investigate breaches of consumer laws or take forward enforcement actions... UK consumers would need to seek redress through the courts of that state rather than UK courts.
There's also some fantastic news for consumers and businesses on some specific areas:
  1. Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution;
  2. Package travel;
  3. Timeshare;
  4. Textile labelling; and
  5. Footwear labelling
some of which is in Annex A.

Of course, the paper omits any helpful links to warnings from the governments of the remaining 27 EU member states to their consumers about dealing with UK traders. I guess that information is being held back for another Friday...

Monday, 8 October 2018

In Brexit Britain Retail Will Be Mainly Online

When high street goods retailers call for increased taxes on e-commerce to subsidise their local business rates, you know their business models no longer make sense. Online retail sales now represent 17% of total retail sales in the UK, up from 5% in 2008. E-commerce is steadily taking over and UK consumers cannot afford to resist. Consumer debt is at its highest in history. So, add the rise in zero hours contracts with a Brexit headwind, and the shift to mainly online sales of goods should happen even faster. That in turn should boost the market for online sales more generally.

In typically populist fashion, all the usual suspects are blaming someone else. Tesco’s CEO has dubbed his plea for a 2% tax on any goods sold online an “Amazon tax”. He reckons this would raise a meagre £1.25bn but wants that spent on lowering the business rates for his physical stores. In other words, like newspapers, he doesn't make enough through his own online sales to subsidise his own under-performing bricks-and-mortar. 

Such a small sum will barely touch the sides within Tesco, yet it will increase all consumer prices for the ever-increasing volume of online sales. But the UK's over-indebted consumers simply can't afford that - and even if unemployment remains low, the number of zero hours contracts has tripled to account for a quarter of employment growth, and 2.8% of overall employment.
Similarly flawed is the UK Chancellor's populist "threat" that tech companies face a “digital services tax”.  It sounds good, but will be futile to protect UK offline retailers and simply raise consumer prices that won't be affordable.

The problem is high street retailers' failure to adapt to the long term trend of rising online sales. You can't blame that on the tax system. Taxes are something businesses have to factor into their planning, not the other way round. And taxes should be technology neutral, rather than making consumers and taxpayers subsidise legacy technology over innovative competition.

So, the sale of goods on the UK high street is doomed as we know it. But as they adapt or fade away, e-commerce for goods should boom. That will boost the market for directly related online services, such as point of sale finance, as well as the market for online services more generally.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Brits Look Away Now: Free Movement Of Non-Personal Data In the EU

The EU's "Digital Single Market" strategy has been boosted by an agreement to remove requirements for non-personal data to be stored in any one EU member state. The new law, approved in plenary by 520 votes to 81, with six abstentions, is due to be approved by the EU Council of Ministers on 6 November. It will apply six months after its publication in the EU Official Journal.

Restrictions on the free movement of personal data have long been relaxed under the EU data protection framework. The latest move is expected to double the value of the EU data economy to 4% of GDP by 2020.

In summary, the agreement means that:
  • public authorities cannot impose "unjustified" data localisation restrictions;
  • the data remains accessible for regulatory and supervisory control even when stored or processed across borders within the EU;
  • cloud service providers are encouraged to develop self-regulatory codes of conduct for easier switching of provider and porting data back to in-house servers, by mid-2020;
  • Security requirements on data storage and processing remain applicable when businesses store or process data in another Member State or outsource data processing to cloud service providers;
  • Single points of contact in each Member State will liaise with other Member States’ and the Commission to ensure the effective application of the new rules. 

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