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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Quick guide to the services directive

The quick guide brings together basic information on the services directive and its scope. From it, you can learn which services are covered by the directive and which are not. The guide also summarises the main benefits the directive brings to service providers and service recipients.

Services covered by the directive

  • distributive trades including retail and the wholesale of goods and services
  • activities of most regulated professions such as legal and tax advisers, architects, engineers, accountants or surveyors
  • construction services and crafts
  • business-related services such as office maintenance, management consultancy, event organisation, debt recovery, advertising and recruitment services
  • tourism services such as travel agents
  • leisure services such as sports centres and amusement parks
  • installation and maintenance of equipment
  • information society services such as publishing for print and web, news agencies, computer programming
  • accommodation and food services such as hotels, restaurants and caterers
  • training and education services
  • rentals and leasing services including car rentals
  • real estate services
  • household support services such as cleaning, gardening and private nannies

Services not covered by the directive

  • financial services
  • electronic communications services with respect to matters covered by other EU instruments
  • transport services falling within the scope of Title VI of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)
  • healthcare services provided by health professionals to assess, maintain or restore the state of patients' health where those activities are reserved to a regulated health profession
  • temporary work agencies' services
  • private security services
  • audio-visual services
  • gambling
  • certain social services provided by the State, by providers mandated by the State or by charities recognised by the State
  • services provided by notaries and bailiffs appointed by an official act of government

How the directive helps businesses establish themselves?

  • EU countries have to set up points of single contact to enable businesses access to information and complete all procedures relating to their activities in one place
  • EU countries need to ensure that all administrative procedures can be completed by mail, phone or electronically
  • EU countries have to review all their authorisation schemes concerning access to services and replace the unnecessary ones by less restrictive means. The schemes have to be made clearer and more transparent, and authorisation has to be granted for an indefinite period and be valid throughout the entire country
  • EU countries also have to:
    • abolish discriminatory requirements such as nationality or residence requirements
    • abolish particularly restrictive requirements such as economic needs tests that require businesses to prove to the authorities that there is a demand for their services
    • review other burdensome requirements which may not always be justified, such as territorial restrictions or ensuring that a business has a minimum number of employees

How the directive facilitates the cross-border provision of services?

  • freedom to provide services - to improve the regulatory environment for service providers who want to engage in cross-border activities, the Services Directive lays down the principle of freedom to provide services. This principle requires that EU countries do not impose nationality requirements on service providers
  • certain requirements can still be imposed but only when they are non-discriminatory, justified for reasons of public policy, public security, public health or the protection of the environment and do not go beyond what is necessary to achieve their objective
  • derogations to the freedom to provide services principle – derogations are covered by Directive 96/71/EC on posting of workers and by Title II of Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications
  • information on requirements EU countries are still allowed to impose on incoming service providers are available through the points of single contact

How the directive enhances the rights of service recipients?

To enhance the rights of recipients of services (consumers or business) and strengthen their confidence in the internal market, EU countries have to:

  • remove obstacles for recipients wanting to use services supplied by providers established in another EU country, such as obligations to obtain an authorisation (Article 19 of the Services Directive)
  • abolish discriminatory requirements based on the recipient’s nationality or place of residence (Article 20 of the services directive. As regards discrimination in general conditions of access set by providers, see also the rules on geo-blocking and the guidance on the application of Article 20(2))
  • make available general information and assistance on the legal requirements, in particular consumer protection rules, and on redress procedures applicable in other EU countries

See bodies providing information and assistance in the list of Article 21 bodies and authorities competent for the application of Article 20 (list of Article 20 authorities).

What administrative cooperation between EU countries looks like?

  • what is the aim - EU countries have to cooperate with each other and give mutual assistance in the supervision of service providers. This ensures effective supervision of service providers and guarantees that such supervision does not lead to additional and unjustified obstacles for service providers;
  • how it works - authorities from different EU countries have to exchange information with each other and carry out checks, inspections and investigations upon request. They also have to send an alert to another EU country in cases where a service activity could cause serious damage to the health or safety of persons or the environment. For this purpose, the Commission in cooperation with EU countries established an electronic system for the exchange of information (IMI).