Kindred CEO calls for better functioning EU single market for online consumers
On the occasion of a high-level event in Brussels “2019 European Elections: The Case For and Against the EU”, co-hosted by POLITICO and EGBA, Mr Henrik Tjärnström, the CEO of Kindred Group, delivered a keynote speech about why the incoming European Commission and Parliament need to make the EU single market work better for Europe’s online consumers and digital sectors, like online gambling.
Mr Tjärnström said:
“Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, it is great to be here today in the Capital of Europe. Especially with a very important summit taking place next door. I don’t think there could be a more appropriate backdrop as we discuss the case for and against the EU. Thank you to Politico for organizing this important and timely debate – and for inviting me here to share some of my thoughts with you. I will try to keep it brief.
In just a few weeks, EU citizens will make their way to the ballot box and elect their representatives to the European Parliament. But, we live in a time when the idea of a common Union is being questioned across a number of member states. The question I ask is, in today’s interconnected world, is being a part of a Union, a common market, really optional? I will try to give my view on this through three fundamental trends: Digital revolution; Consumer power; Sustainable regulation.
The first trend I want to address is the digital revolution. I represent a company that is sprung out of the digital revolution a bit over twenty years ago. Kindred, born as Unibet back in 1997, is now one of Europe’s leading digital companies with multi-billion Euro revenues and 20 million customers across Europe.
At Kindred, we saw an opportunity in the rise of Internet, and the benefits of a common single market where all EU citizens could enjoy the same products and services as their neighbours. Our purpose has always been to give our customers a better, fairer, and safer online gambling experience, driven by technology.
And like many other disruptors who came before us, we too have upset vested interests and monopolies along the way. It has not always been easy, but someone must question old habits because without market disruptors nothing will change – to the determent of consumers.
The digital revolution offers us all enormous new opportunities, greater access to information, new products and services. But this new reality also creates new challenges and responsibilities, not least for those companies who provide their services online. And, as consumers put greater trust in the online world, regulators and companies operating in this realm have an even greater responsibility to protect this trust.
And that brings me on to my second trend. In today’s borderless internet society, consumers have more power than ever before – because the next offer is just one click away. Nobody knows this better than retailers. I’m sure that many of you have searched online to find a cheaper product through platforms such as Amazon or booking.com. And why pay more than you have to?
The EU has always been a strong advocate for consumers through the single market. And when we talk about “the case for and against the EU”, the single market is surely the EU’s greatest success story. But, it needs to work better, particularly for online consumers. That’s why I’m particularly pleased that the European Council recently concluded that digital single market rules need to be more efficient, and better enforced, and barriers should be removed. I could not agree more!
Adapting the single market for the online world is crucial, because it shouldn’t matter if a consumer buys a book, a plane ticket, or places a bet online, that consumer should always enjoy the same rules, standards and protections, regardless of where they live in the EU. That is currently not the case for many online sectors, including my own.
And that brings me to my final point: regulation needs to adapt to new realities. Policies should nurture the new consumer-driven reality – not hinder it. We live in a globalised and technology-driven society – and policies must be closer aligned with consumer behavior.
The EU has to an extent led the way in regulating this new reality through the groundbreaking GDPR, and by enforcing breaches on competition and tax laws from large tech giants, and by breaking up inefficient and harmful monopolies. This is good for the consumer! But digital companies also need to understand that with their new role comes responsibilities to society.
To conclude, the EU is based on the notion that all citizens are equal and should enjoy the same standards. This should also be the case for all sectors, including online gambling. That is why we’re calling for a common set of EU rules for our sector – putting the consumer at the center, based on the highest standards and efficient regulations, which offer consumers safe protection and rights regardless of where they live.
For this reason, we urge the new Commission and parliament to play a leading role in adapting the Single Market to the digital reality – for the benefit of all Europe’s citizens and consumers. Thank you.”