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Services Directive

The Services Directive aims to create a free market for the services sector. Its purpose is to remove the legal and administrative barriers that can hinder businesses from offering their services in another country, and to encourage cross-border competition.

Directive 2006/123/EC on services in the internal market was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 12 December 2006. It was required to be fully transposed by Member States into their national systems by 28 December 2009. In Ireland, the Services Directive was transposed on 10 November 2010 by SI No 533 of 2010 – The European Union (Provision of Services) Regulations 2010.

Main benefits of the Services Directive

The Services Directive aims to maximise the advantages of the Single Market for services for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike. It obliges MS to cut red-tape, increase transparency and to remove unjustified or disproportionate requirements. It will ensure more rights for citizens, increased competitiveness of EU services and a better and broader choice. Moreover, it obliges all Member States to cooperate with each other in order to ensure efficient supervision of service providers and their services.

The Services Directive was required to unleash the untapped potential of the EU Single Market for services in order to boost economic growth, create jobs and increase the quality and choice for consumers.

Article 21

Article 21 of the Services Directive states that Member States must ensure that service recipients can obtain the following information:

  • general information on the requirements applicable in other Member States relating to access to, and exercise of, service activities, in particular those relating to consumer protection
  • general information on the means of redress available in the case of a dispute between a provider and a recipient
  • the contact details of associations or organisations, including the centres of the European Consumer Centres Network, from which providers or recipients may obtain practical assistance

The designated Article 21 bodies in Ireland are:

  • Cork Chamber - advice for businesses offering services in another EU country on:
    • your legal rights if there is a problem
    • contact details of agencies that will offer you further assistance
  • European Consumer Centre Ireland - advice for consumers on:
    • what to check before availing of services in another member state
    • your legal rights if there is a problem
    • contact details of agencies that will offer you further assistance

Service providers covered by the Directive

The Services Directive covers a large variety of sectors ranging from traditional activities to knowledge-based services. It affects service providers both large and small including thousands of SMEs. Examples of activities and sectors covered by the Services Directive include:

  • retail and commerce, for example, supermarkets and other commercial establishments, trade fairs and itinerant sales
  • construction, for example, building companies, insulation activities
  • real estate, for example, real estate agencies, auctions, conveyance
  • services linked to agriculture and forestry, for example, support activities for crop production such as fumigation services or harvesting services; post-harvesting crop activities; veterinaries and biological laboratories
  • services related to industry, for example, installation and maintenance of machines, industrial cleaning
  • education services, for example, private schools and private universities, language schools
  • tourism and leisure, for example, restaurants, bars, travel agencies, hotels, amusement parks
  • professional services, for example, lawyers, architects, engineers, veterinaries
  • crafts, for example, carpenters, plumbers, frame-makers, repair and maintenance services
  • knowledge-based services to business, for example, management consultancy, advertising, certification, testing, training
  • social services provided by private operators, for example, childcare, care for the elderly, household support
  • culture-related services, private museums and libraries, theatres, concerts, organisation of open air events
  • sport and fitness, for example, gyms, spas
  • services ancillary to healthcare, for example, supply and maintenance of medical equipment, laboratories working for hospitals
  • services related to, but distinct from transport, for example, car rental, removal services, driving schools, aerial photography, organisation of bus tours
  • intellectual property-relate services, for example, administration of IP rights by collecting societies, services offered by patent attorneys

Service providers not covered by the Directive

Service providers not covered:

  • financial services
  • electronic communications services and networks
  • services in the field of transport (but services which are related to, albeit distinct from transport, such as driving school services, leisure flights and so on, are covered)
  • services of temporary work agencies (but placement and recruitment services are covered)
  • healthcare services provided by health professionals to patients to assess, maintain or restore their state of health where those activities are reserved to a regulated health profession (but services that are not directly intended for the treatment of patients – for example, veterinary services – or are not reserved to a regulated health profession or are provided to healthcare institutions or healthcare staff are covered)
  • audiovisual services and radio broadcasting
  • gambling activities
  • social services relating to social housing, childcare and support of families and persons permanently or temporarily in need which are provided by the State, by providers mandated by the State or by charities recognised as such by the State (but when social services are provided by a private operator, they are covered)
  • private security services (but those services which are not security services as such, for example, the sale or installation of security devices or the manned monitoring of property or persons from a distance through electronic devices are covered)
  • services provided by notaries and bailiffs, who are appointed by an official act of government