EU regulators push e-invoicing, online payments and infrasctructure coordination

Europe's top regulators have set out three proposals to help grow the IT industry as part of the Single Market Act.

The European Commission announced that it would take action to ensure better coordination of infrastructure works required for the roll out of high-speed Internet. It will also work to harmonize online payments throughout the European Union and will require all public procurement projects to use e-invoicing.

According to the Commission, around 80 percent of the costs associated with the deployment of high-speed infrastructure come from from civil engineering work such as digging up roads to lay down cables.

Although some member states already have plans to coordinate such work, the Commission says these are scarce and scattered. In France, private companies such as Orange-France Telecom took the initiative themselves to share access to ducts and in-building cabling. But the Commission plans to build on existing obligations in the regulatory framework with new laws.

Recent reports suggest that 35 percent of Internet users do not buy online because they have doubts over payment methods. Lawmakers say that is because of insufficient harmonization, ineffective competition in some areas of Internet payments and lack of incentives for technical standardization. The Commission has therefore proposed a revision of the Payment Services Directive.

It also wants to see the non-discrimination clause of the Services Directive fully implemented. This bans service providers from differentiating between customers on the basis of nationality or place of residence.

Finally, the Commission said that making electronic invoicing the standard mode for public procurement will make the public sector a 'lead market' for e-invoicing and spearhead its wider use in the economy.

by Jennifer Baker