EU Data Act: a ‘blanket’ legislation lacking sectoral specifications

What impact will the EU’s proposed Data Act have on the EU sustainability goals? And how will the home appliance industry be affected? Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General shared the challenges and opportunities of the Act at the Dr2 Consultants’ Breakfast Webinar Series. 

What impact will the EU’s proposed Data Act have on the EU sustainability goals? And how will the home appliance industry be affected? Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General shared the challenges and opportunities of the Act at the Dr2 Consultants’ Breakfast Webinar Series. 

The digital transition is a momentous challenge for Europe to address, at all levels of all sectors. The EU’s proposed Data Act aims to be a key driver towards establishing a data-driven economy, with the objective of ensuring the fair treatment of data whilst maintaining innovation. Achieving increased transparency and accessibility of data for both users and providers, toward a progressively more equal footing is, in a nutshell, the ideal scenario the European Commission aims to create. As a key player in the EU supply and value chain, the home appliance sector ultimately supports the underlying objectives of the Regulation to set up a framework for data-sharing, “provided that there is full respect for the principle of contractual freedom,” mentioned Falcioni, setting the scene. Nevertheless, a number of elements are still missing at this stage on the foreseen implementation and enforcement methods of the data sharing. 

In this regard, Falcioni pointed out how without clear and actionable articles, the Data Act may risk creating legal uncertainty, and make it more difficult to innovate for EU industry. Besides, with the existence of other legislation that deals with data-sharing, “it is of utmost importance to avoid a piecemeal approach to data sharing that brings confusion to industry in relation with EU law compliance.”  

Let’s take the case of a connected fridge, recording its performance data in the form of an alphanumeric sequence. As it currently stands, legislation demands to provide users with access to it. But, would this be relevant to them? What is more, it also extends the right to share such information with third parties, potentially competitors, raising serious concerns on the legitimacy of such operations. This calls for the set-up of a “coherent protection framework for trade secrets” which by their nature, should be kept confidential within each company to ensure EU competitiveness is preserved. 

Aligning circular and digital agendas is key to achieving the EU’s decarbonisation goals and fostering the creation of a  circular economy. Coupling energy and data flows is indeed crucial to a successful digital transition. On this point, Falcioni highlighted a recent study conducted by one of APPLiA’s national associations, AGORIA, expanding on the potential of digital technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, in Europe. The discussion on how data can tackle the climate crisis progressed onto the topic of how the synergy between the actions taken by the EU on the Energy Efficiency Directive and the proposal on the Data Act can play its part. Smart home systems can help in matching the demand of energy with the supply of energy. That is a crucial element in using energy when it is available. “All the data flow to make that happen are as important as the energy flow,” explained Falcioni. Crucially, the Energy Efficiency Directive is asking Member States to ensure that there is an energy saving target within each respective State. In this regard, benefits may be reaped in increasing data access and data transparency. In essence, the legislation is not absolutely good, or absolutely bad. It depends on the case at hand. And that is what is missing completely. Today, “it is a ‘blanket’ legislation applicable to all products and services, without considering the specificity of each sector,” concluded Falcioni.