The rapid digitalisation of our economy is representing opportunities and challenges to existing businesses. Data and digitalisation is no longer an issue only for the ICT sector, it is increasingly impacting upon all sectors of the economy, also business services.

In the February 2017 Data Market and Data Economy Study commissioned by DG Connect it is evident, that professional services is the sector with the third largest data market in the EU, and this market is growing rapidly. The growth rate between 2015 and 2016 was 8,1%. EBSA therefore finds it of utmost importance, that the data economy in the EU is given the right conditions to flourish. We hence welcome the fast agreement on the proposal on the Free Flow of Data presented by the Commission in September 2017. Data-protectionism is increasing, and therefore unjustified data localisation measures should be forbidden to ensure optimal investment conditions for data infrastructure in the single market.

Business services providers hold significant amounts of data on their clients which allows EBSAs members to deliver excellent and customized services. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) raises the standards for protection of our clients’ privacy. Reaching the new standards is challenging, but our members are committed to the task, and are looking forward to benefitting from a harmonized single market for personal data. However, for a truly harmonized single market to emerge, EBSA urges the Member States’ Data Protection Authorities to work closely together in the implementation and enforcement of the new regulation. Furthermore EBSA fails to see the need for an extra layer of protection as envisaged by the proposed update of the ePrivacy regulation. The GDPR ensures a gold standard of privacy protection, adding specific rules for electronic communication, and even extending the scope to machine-to-machine communication, will just lead to further complications and higher compliance costs, to the detriment of the development of the data economy.

Digitalisation also leads to new business models and new ways of organising work. Most prominently are the emergence of the collaborative economy. EBSA welcomes the Commission’s communication on the collaborative economy, where it is made clear that these new businesses are to comply with existing legislation on e.g. taxation and consumer protection, and no bespoke regulation is necessary per se. EBSA however whishes to point out, that business services in some regards are front runners to the “sharing economy” enabled without digital platforms, but in essence a similar concept. These businesses have thrived for years, and potential new legislation aimed at the collaborative economy business actors should not impose further restrictions on the original business services providers. Clear definitions is hence going to be essential.