Norway shifts to compulsory B2G electronic invoicing as from 1-7-2012

September 6, 2011  |  Adoption, Electronic Invoicing

Norway flag 230x200As from 1 July 2012 B2G e-invoicing becomes compulsory in Norway. The format is EHF: Elektronisk HandelsFormat. This format is a subset of subset of UBL2.0. The Norwegian Agency for Public Management and e-Government (Difi) is responsible for the roll out of the e-invoicing in Norway.

Compulsory, but to whom?
It is unclear to whom B2G e-invoicing will become compulsory. Hans Christian Holte, the director general of DIFI says that all suppliers, SME’s and one-(wo)man firms, must send their invoices electronically to the Norwegian public sector.

Norwegian software providers Compello takes a different approach. It states that as from 1 July 2012 all State-owned enterprises are obliged to accept the invoice and credit note in EHF and that all suppliers who deal with the state have a right to send e-invoices.

The world upside down
Hans Christian Holte of DIFI concludes that they can’t expect that SME’s and one-(wo)man-firms- have their own proprietary e-procurement solutions installed. He thinks that  a “massive adoption scenario” will be difficult to meet unless the private sector can offer several web-based e-invoicing services.

Wait, wait just a second. The Norwegian government wants to make B2G e-invoicing in EHF compulsory because they benefit from (processing) this type of e-invoicing, right? And now the private sector has to come to the rescue, with web-based solutions to get the SME’s to adopt EHF e-invoicing?

This was how the private sector reacted: “Today there are over fifty suppliers offering web-invoicing in Norway, but only one supplier is ready to produce electronic invoices on EHF format.”

Business opportunities?
Because of this situation DIFI’s director general, Hans Christian Holte, invites suppliers to a dialogue meeting about web-based e-invoicing services for the public sector. This meeting will be held this September.

DIFI strives for a situation with fair competition where as many suppliers as possible offers electronic invoicing in the EHF format implementing PEPPOL BIS. With a broad choice of web-based e-invoicing solutions available to the SME’s a free flow of invoices from SME’s can be assured.

The question is, do these software suppliers get an incentive/ compensation to get going?

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  1. e-Gov around the world is showing increased interest that should in long run help world economies. Hopefully Europe will be able to work out logistics in order to keep interest high. Seems like every time you turn around EU has another restriction!

  2. Jens Jakob Andersen

    In Denmark we have made a lot of effort to make it easy for “the long tail” to get on board - by i.e. operating an einvoicing portal for B2G einvoicing called Nemhandel (Easytrade).

    It is available as open source - and is based on open freely available standards and easily integrateable to PEPPOL.

  3. Is this legislation necessarily a bad thing?

    We are all free minded and want to do our own things in our own way but when it comes to communication between computers on a wide scale such individuality does not work well. The success of the Internet rests on the fact that it uses a single set of specifications that all users accept to use. Either you’re in and follow the specs or you’re out. No individuality there.

    The issue then becomes, how does a large (very large) group of users agree on using a single set of specs. Basically there are two ways. By traction, such as the Internet, or by legalization. We as free minded prefer the traction. But specs are to be adopted by traction there must be “competitive” advantage that those specs have. Example of such an advantage is promotion by a influential corporation like, say Microsoft. Another example is simplicity and/or performance such as was the case for the Internet or, maybe, Skype..

    It has been the dream of the electronic commerce community for at least 20 years to establish a generally agreed set of specs so that standardized implementations can be reused for most or all business exchange in a similar way as paper document and snail mail. So far this has not been achieved throught traction. No specs have had the competitive advantage to “win the game”. Maybe by legalizing a set of specs we will move forward instead of going in circles.

    What specs should be legalized. Well of coure the ones that fit “my” requirements.

  4. For this editorial we researched Norwegian media and asked ourselves how this development is being experienced by both service providers and SME’s and shared it.

    Similar to developments in other countries, like the Netherlands, it becomes clear that governments tend to forget that:
    - in chain digitalization you need ‘the other side’ of the chain for effective adoption
    - this is only realized after adoption figures at providers and SME’s fall short.

  5. Open Source and Open Standards are the correct direction to head in - and we need some new business models. As an example - Tradeshift has a completely different business model where e-invoicing is free to all (small, medium and large), and their revenues come from value added services, mainly to large corp. - not from nickel and dimeing all the small businesses.

  6. Dear all,
    I’ve enjoyed reading both the editorial (Thanks Friso!) and all the other comments here.
    The issue of enabling SME’s to send e-invoices (for at least B2G transactions) came into very sharp relief for me in the last week during a series of meetings with senior (Australian) government bureaucrats at both the Federal and State levels.
    Let me share two polarized responses to the broad proposition of mandating (or even ‘strongly encouraging’) the use of e-invoicing by SME’s to government.
    a) “All you’re doing is making government administration cheaper (processing invoices) by shifting the cost on to industry - requiring them to re-train stuff and buy new systems. Has anyone asked industry what they think?”
    b) “The politicians will never agree to it! Government can’t tell industry how it ‘must’ do this, or ‘must’ do that. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing in Europe or North America or anywhere else for that matter, here government can’t tell industry how to send it invoices”.
    In considering both of these (valid) points of view over the few days since I held the meetings a number of issues of come to mind:
    1) Trade: ‘open’ or ‘closed’?
    In his work “The End of the Nation State”, Kenichi Ohmae (writing some 11 years ago) predicted that a nation-state like Australia, was doomed in the long run and that even in the short run the regional alliances, trade alliances and other forms of organization were already more important than the decisions made by a nation-state government like Australia. Even reading his work in a ‘conservative’ frame of mind a nation-state like Australia could not make decisions unilaterally without due regard to how other nation-state governments would react – according to Ohmae.
    As I sit here writing this in Canberra (the seat of the Australian National Government) I must admit that my nation-state government seems alive and well and that Ohmae’s predictions have yet to be proven true! And yet, I’m reminded that our Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S. Government (as just one example) means that even very practical elements of my day-to-day activities (at least in my working life) like tendering for government business is in fact governed by what the Australian/U.S. FTA has to say about it.
    Isn’t the nature of trade between Australian industry and overseas entities governed by factors outside of the Australian Government’s control anyway? Australian industry may well be able to ‘control’ what limitations are placed on B2G trade within Australia but not elsewhere. By 2013, and Australian business wanting to sell to the U.S. Government is going to have to send an e-invoice. This is the case regardless of whether the Australian government mandates the practice here or not.
    2) Politics and government administration – a systems view
    I had always understood that a national economy – any national economy was best viewed as a system. If we accept this view then we surely need to accept that to make government administration ‘better-faster-cheaper’ in turn improves the whole system and makes it ‘better-faster-cheaper’. A ‘better way’ for government administration translates directly to a ‘better way’ for industry. This notwithstanding that in the ‘model’ provided by Basware and others – e-invoicing for SME’s involves no new systems, no re-training and is free in any case…
    So too, whilst I appreciate that in reality things do ‘get complicated’ in practice, the role of a professional public (civil) service is primarily about “doing the thing right” (i.e. efficiency) and the role of our politicians is to focus on “doing the right things” (i.e. effectiveness).
    I’d appreciate your thoughts and views.
    Best regards, Paul.

  7. Carmen Ciciriello

    I think I follow the logic in this post but want to pose a slightly different interpretation….

    Compulsory, but to whom?

    The press release I read ( (that references DIFI’s Director General, Hans Christian Holte) states that “all suppliers must send their invoices electronically to the Norwegian public sector”. So there is an obligation for state agencies to be able to receive and process e-invoices. The suppliers who deal with state agencies also have an obligation to send e-invoices if they want to be paid. This is not something new in the public sector, especially Scandinavia, where Denmark has operated such a policy for over 5 years.

    The world upside down

    There are three actors in this scenario: the government sector, the private sector (as suppliers to the state) and the e-invoice service providers, providing services to both of them.
    In order to have mass adoption, SME engagement is critical. For this reason the Norwegian government has openly invited service providers to get ready, as e-Invoicing provides significant benefits to all three actors and to the wider economy.

    Business opportunities?

    The Norwegian government has opened up a large market opportunity for the new services. Standards are key to ensure security of investment in any technology and with EHF the Norwegians have ensured confidence in developing a sizeable e-Invoicing market. Norway is a technology leader and strong economy, and all they need to do next is create awareness. The e-invoicing service providers will recognize the opportunity for enabling adoption and everyone will realise the benefits. It has happened elsewhere.

  8. @Carmen Ciciriello

    Thank you for sharing your vision on this.

    @Paul Turner

    Thank you for your point of view on this. Could you agree that e-invoicing/e-business is a form of chain digitsation, where the effectiveness of the initiating end of the chain is directly influenced by the willingness of the rest to cooperate?

    Also, how often in a chain is an individual component strong enough to impose its will to all the others components?