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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The Services Directive

This directive aims to remove the barriers to trade in services. It simplified the administrative procedures for service providers, enhanced the rights of consumers and businesses receiving services, and fostered cooperation among EU countries.

Benefits for businesses and consumers

The Services Directive (2006/123/EC) brings many benefits to businesses and consumers providing or using services in the EU.

Businesses benefit from

  • easier establishment
  • easier provision of cross-border services
  • simplified procedures and formalities

Customers benefit from

  • strengthened rights of consumers and businesses receiving services
  • higher quality of services
  • enhanced information and transparency on service providers

Rights of recipients

To enhance the rights of services recipients and strengthen their confidence in the internal market, EU countries have to

  • remove obstacles for recipients of services supplied by providers established in another EU country, such as obligations to obtain an authorisation
  • abolish discriminatory requirements based on the recipient’s nationality or place of residence
  • make available general information and assistance on the legal requirements, in particular consumer protection rules and redress procedures applicable in other EU countries.

Abolition of discriminatory requirements

  • What is prohibited - Article 20 of the services directive obliges all EU countries to ensure that companies do not discriminate against service recipients by denying access to a service or applying higher prices due to the recipient's nationality or country of residence. Differential treatment is only allowed when the differences are directly justified.
  • What is the objective - The purpose of this provision is to help service recipients, especially consumers, access offers available on the markets of other EU countries and make the most of the Internal Market.
  • Where to find more info - Download the brochure, Buying services everywhere in the EU for free from the EU Publications or see the Commission's guidance on the application of Article 20(2) of the services directive (266 kB). You may also contact the designated bodies providing information and assistance which can be found in the List of Article 21 bodies (369 kB).

In February 2015, the Commission organised the Conference, 'Buying services everywhere in the single market' to discuss Article 20(2) of the services directive with stakeholders. For further information about the conference, please see the meeting documents.

Administrative cooperation

  • The aim - EU countries have to cooperate with each other and give mutual assistance in the supervision of service providers. This ensures the effective supervision of service providers and guarantees that such supervision does not lead to additional and unjustified obstacles.
  • 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 European Commission in cooperation with EU countries established an electronic system for the exchange of information (IMI).

Contact us

grow-e1atec [dot] europa [dot] eu (grow-e1[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu)