Services Directive

The EU Services Directive was introduced to remove unjustifiable or discriminatory requirements affecting the setting up or carrying on of a relevant service.

A service is an economic activity normally provided for remuneration and which is not a contract for employment. Types of a service include

Business services: management consultancy; professional services such as lawyers, accountants and actuaries; advertising; certification and testing; facilities management, including office maintenance; fitting and maintenance of equipment; renting of equipment; logistics; waste management; training providers; and the services of commercial agents.

Services provided to both business and consumer: estate agents and letting agents; conveyancing; construction services such as architects and builders; restaurants and catering services; distributive trades; postal services; storage services; financial advisers; and the organisation of trade fairs.

Consumer services: tourism, including tour operators and tour guides; travel agents; leisure services and sports centres; child minders; amusement parks; private schools and universities; providers of post graduate studies, language schools, vocational training; driving instructors; MOT services; entertainment; beauty services; veterinarians; gardeners; cleaners; plumbers; joiners; and electricians.

EU Member states were required to implement the Directive by 28 December 2009. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills(BIS) leads on implementation in the UK and has worked closely with other government departments, the devolved administrations, local authorities, regulators and others in tasks such as screening legislation for compliance with the Directive. We have also worked to establish an online ‘Point of Single Contact’ for service providers to find out about doing business in the UK and apply for licences online.

The Services Directive was implemented into UK law by The Provision of Services Regulations 2009.

Main benefits

If you are a service provider, the main benefits to you are that:

  • competent authorities, whether in the UK or other EEA states, cannot make the access to or carrying out of a service activity subject to an authorisation scheme or requirement unless this can be justified against specified criteria;
  • you will have access to an on-line facility through which you can apply for all licences needed to do business in the UK.
  • If you are looking to expand into Europe you will have access to a Point of Single Contact in all other EEA states. In addition, the Regulations provide for a UK competent authority to pass relevant documentation already in its possession to the competent authority in the country concerned, rather than a business having to do so itself.

Businesses - licence applications

Businesses can apply online for licences needed in other EU countries through their Points of Single Contact.

Licences may also be found on GOV.UK Licence finder.

Businesses from outside of the UK can access online licence applications and information about doing business in the UK at UK Welcomes.

Further information

Please read our article on The Provision of Services Regulations 2009.


DIRECTIVE 2006/123/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market.