Points of Single Contact

Points of Single Contact in Europe

Points of Single Contact in relation to the E.U. Services Directive

The following is an examination of points of single contact regarding the European Union Servicies Directive [1]:

Points of Single Contact: Administrative Simplification

On the basis of Article 6, Member States are obliged to ensure that service providers can complete all procedures and formalities needed for access to and exercise of their service activities through “points of single contact”. This is one of the obligations of result in the Services Directive. Member States will have to take a number of decisions as to the manner of organising their “points of single contact” and will have to ensure that the “points of single contact” are set up and functioning at the latest by the end of the implementation period.

The “points of single contact” are meant to be the single institutional interlocutors from the perspective of the service provider, so that he does not need to contact several competent authorities or bodies to collect all relevant information and to complete all necessary steps relating to his service activities. Member States need to make the “points of single contact” available for all service providers whether established in their territory or in the territory of another Member State. Of course, the obligation only applies to services sectors covered by the Directive but Member States may consider extending the activities of the “points of single contact” to all or some of the sectors excluded from the Directive. The same logic applies as regards certain matters excluded from the Directive. For example, Member States could consider the possibility of including certain tax-related requirements, such as the allocation of VAT numbers, in the “points of single contact”.

The objective of setting up one-stop shops for businesses has been pursued by Member States for several years and the obligation contained in the Services Directive is therefore in line with, and complementary to, the aims of other Community initiatives, in particular the commitment taken by the European Council to put in place one-stop shops for start-ups by the end of 200743. However, the legal obligation contained in the Services Directive is broader and comprises all kinds of businesses (not only start-ups), service recipients (for information purposes) and all types of procedures (not only start-up procedures). On the other hand, it is clear that other functions which one-stop shops for start-ups44 are encouraged to fulfil, such as coaching, training, financial advice and business-plan guidance, go further than the obligations laid down by the Services Directive. Implementation of the one-stop shop target set by the European Council will contribute to the implementation of the “points of single contact”. In any event, it is clear that Member States do not have to provide for two separate networks and that they can build on existing initiatives to fulfil the legal obligation contained in the Services Directive.

The assistance to be provided through the “points of single contact” in relation to the E.U. Services Directive

The following is an examination of the assistance to be provided through the “points of single contact” regarding the European Union Servicies Directive [1]:

The assistance to be provided through the “points of single contact”: Information and assistance through the “points of single contact”

In addition to the information on the requirements which service providers have to comply with, competent authorities should provide, at the request of service providers or recipients, assistance on the way these requirements are usually applied or interpreted. Such assistance may, for instance, be given by way of easily understandable guides which could explain the general application of certain terms and conditions and the different procedural steps to be taken. As clarified in Article 7(6), this obligation of assistance is an obligation to provide general information and does not require the competent authority to provide legal advice in individual cases.

This additional information also has to be provided in a clear and unambiguous manner and be easily accessible at a distance and by electronic means, such as via the Internet or by e-mail. As explained in Article 7(4), competent authorities need to reply as quickly as possible to any request for information or assistance and have to, in case the request is unclear or incomplete, inform the applicant accordingly without delay.

The completion of procedures and formalities through the “points of single contact” in relation to the E.U. Services Directive

The following is an examination of the completion of procedures and formalities through the “points of single contact” regarding the European Union Servicies Directive [1]:

The completion of procedures and formalities through the “points of single contact”: Points of Single Contact

As mentioned in this legal encyclopedia, “points of single contact” have to be available for completion of the procedures and formalities which service providers have to comply with in a Member State to have access to or exercise a service activity (whether via an establishment or across borders from another Member State, to the extent that procedures and formalities are applicable in the case of cross-border services). This includes authorisations as well as declarations, notifications, the allocation of a company registration number and other procedures and formalities. It should be clear that subsequent appeal procedures, whether of a judicial or administrative nature, such as lodging of complaints or actions for annulment of a decision, do not have to be dealt with by “points of single contact”.

To complete all procedures through “points of single contact”, service providers need to be able to obtain all pertinent information, forms and documents relevant to the procedures, to submit documents and applications and to receive the decisions and other replies relating to their application through them.

Some of the procedures to be completed via the “points of single contact” may be complex, such as certain procedures for the establishment of large commercial retailers, and/or involve a number of different authorisations. However, as mentioned above, “points of single contact” may have a coordinating role only, with the decisional power remaining with the specific competent -authorities. In any case, it remains very important that “points of single contact” give providers a clear overview of all steps they need to take and supply them with procedural assistance and feedback on ongoing procedures.

Of course, it is not an obligation for service providers to resort to the “points of single contact”. They remain free to use or not to use this possibility and they are also free to contact any competent authority directly and submit/receive documents, authorisations and the like directly. In cases where the procedures and formalities undertaken via the “point of single contact” involve time periods (for instance because there is a deadline for the submission of a document, or because a competent authority has to take a decision as regards a request for an authorisation within a given time limit), the moment of reception by the “point of single contact” of all the required documents should be the point in time relevant for calculating such time period.

More Details about the completion of procedures and formalities through the “points of single contact”

Once a request has been made, the “points of single contact” have to respond as quickly as possible and inform the applicant without delay if a request is faulty or unfounded.

Finally, it is worth noting that the “points of single contact” provided for in the Services Directive and the “contact point” envisaged in Article 57 of the Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications pursue different objectives. Whereas according to Article 57 of the latter Directive, one single contact point is to be set up in each Member State which will make available information concerning recognition of professional qualifications and assistance to citizens wishing to have their professional qualifications recognised in another Member State, the “points of single contact” referred to in the Services Directive will make it possible for citizens and businesses to actually complete through it all procedures and formalities relating to access to and exercise of service activities, including those related to the recognition of professional qualifications.

The setting-up of the “points of single contact” in relation to the E.U. Services Directive

The following is an examination of the setting-up of the “points of single contact” regarding the European Union Servicies Directive [1]:

The setting-up of the “points of single contact”: Points of Single Contact

Each Member State is free to decide how to organise the “points of single contact” in its territory but needs to ensure that they are available for all service providers that benefit from the Directive to complete all procedures and formalities relating to services and matters falling within the scope of application of the Directive.

The concept of “points of single contact” does not mean that Member States have to set up one single centralised body in their territory. Member States may decide to have several “points of single contact” within their territory. The “point of single contact” must however be “single” from the individual provider's perspective (i.e. The service provider should be able to complete all procedures by using only one such point of contact).

Member States may choose to have different “points of single contact” for different sectors, such as “points of single contact” for regulated professions and “points of single contact” for commercial activities such as retail, etc. However, it is important that possible gaps in coverage be avoided. Therefore, if Member States choose to set up “points of single contact” according to specific sectors, they will need (additional) “points of single contact” which are competent for all services that may not be covered by the sector specific “points of single contact”. In any case, if a Member State decides to set up different “points of single contact”, differences in coverage should be easily identifiable to the service provider. This is likely to require a central webpage which would enable service providers to easily identify and contact the relevant “points of single contact” in a given Member State. Also, if different “points of single contact” exist, a “point of single contact” which has been contacted by a service provider, but which is not competent for this service provider's activities, should assist the service provider to find the “point of single contact” competent in his case.

Setting up different “points of single contact” for foreign and national service providers might result in discrimination. Discrimination might also arise if Member States set up different “points of single contact” for establishment-related questions and questions related to the provision of cross-border services. These differences therefore should be avoided.

Member States may decide that “points of single contact” only fulfil a coordinating role, so that final decisions remain with the existing competent authorities. Member States deciding to do so would have to organise the communication between the “points of single contact” and the competent authorities so as to ensure their rapidity and reliability. Member States may nevertheless decide to allocate certain decisional powers to the “points of single contact”. For instance, Member States could consider that the “points of single contact” are directly responsible for the registration of business or for the granting of authorisations of a simple nature. In any case, the Directive makes clear that the “points of single contact” do not prejudice the allocation of competences among competent authorities45.

More Details about the setting-up of the “points of single contact”

Also, Member States are free to decide to whom they want to attribute the task of “points of single contact”: to competent authorities at national, regional or local level, to professional chambers, to other professional organisations or even to private operators. In any event, the rules for public procurement have to be respected if applicable, in particular the provisions on public service contracts46. If Member States decide to have “points of single contact” run by private operators, Member States should put in place the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that they fulfil their task in accordance with the requirements laid down by the Directive.

Moreover, Member States may also choose to set up “points of single contact” on an electronic basis only, thus not putting in place a specific physical infrastructure where service providers can actually go to. In this case, particular emphasis needs to be placed on the clear structure of information and procedures provided on webpages or in similar electronic tools, which must give comprehensible guidance as regards all procedures and formalities relating to access to and exercise of service activities. Service providers should be able to easily identify all procedures and formalities relevant to their particular requests and get a consistent overview of their ongoing applications or requests through these electronic-only “points of single contact”. Accordingly, it would not be sufficient if Member States provide a mere list or compilation of web links on a central webpage. Also, if “points of single contact” are set up on an electronic basis only, it will be necessary to establish a helpline which service providers can contact in case of difficulties. Member States should nevertheless consider the possibility to support the electronic functioning of the “points of single contact” by means of a certain physical infrastructure, in particular if this facilitates their use by service providers not necessarily familiar with the use of electronic means. Finally, Member States are free to choose how to finance the “points of single contact”. As stated in Recital 49, “points of single contact” may charge users for the services they render. However, the fees charged must be proportionate to the effective cost of the procedures dealt with. In any case, charges should not be so high as to discourage service providers from making use of the “points of single contact”. Furthermore, Member States may also entrust “points of single contact” with the collection of other administrative fees, such as fees of supervisory bodies.

The Commission will use its best endeavours to facilitate the exchange of best practice concerning the organisation and financing of “points of single contact” between Member States.

Information and assistance through the “points of single contact” in relation to the E.U. Services Directive

The following reviews some of the entries in this European legal encyclopedia about information and assistance through the “points of single contact” regarding the European Union Servicies Directive:

  • the information to be provided
  • the assistance to be provided
  • Encouraging the use of other languages

Points of Single Contact in relation to the E.U. Services Directive

The following reviews some of the entries in this European legal encyclopedia about points of single contact regarding the European Union Servicies Directive:

  • the setting-up of the “points of single contact”
  • the completion of procedures and formalities through the “points of single contact”

Resources

Notes

  1. Information on the setting-up of the “points of single contact” based on the EU Services Directive Handbook, UK Government

See Also

Resources

Notes

  1. Information on the completion of procedures and formalities through the “points of single contact” based on the EU Services Directive Handbook, UK Government

See Also

Resources

Notes

  1. Information on the assistance to be provided through the “points of single contact” based on the EU Services Directive Handbook, UK Government

See Also

Resources

Notes

  1. Information on points of single contact based on the EU Services Directive Handbook, UK Government

See Also

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