European Commission's initiatives
The European Commission's policy fosters a trusting, lawful and innovation-driven online platforms' environment in the EU. To this end, the Commission identified key areas of interests in its May 2016 Communication on Online Platforms. The guiding policy principles are:
- A level playing field for comparable digital services;
- Ensure responsible behaviour of online platforms to protect core values;
- Foster trust, transparency and ensure fairness on online platforms;
- Keep markets open and non-discriminatory to foster a data-driven economy.
EU Regulation on fairness and transparency in online platform-to-business relationship
The regulation on online platform-to-business relationships puts in place a harmonised framework for minimum transparency and redress rights. It protects companies that depend on online platforms for reaching consumers, while safeguarding the innovation potential of platforms. The new rules started applying 12 July 2019.
The Observatory on the online platform economy accompanies the new rules. It monitors and analyses the latest trends and issues in the online platform economy. As a business on an online platform, you can help identify the main issues by sharing your experiences through a dedicated website.
Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online
The Commission issued a Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online in March 2018. This builds on the Communication on tackling illegal content online of September 2017, and translates the political commitment of the preceding Communication into a (non-binding) legal form.
At the request of the European Parliament, the Commission is carrying out an in-depth analysis of algorithmic transparency and accountability. The pilot project will provide an in-depth study of the role of algorithms in the digital economy and society. In particular, how they shape, filter or personalise information flows.
What are online platforms and why are they important
Online platforms are strong drivers of innovation and play an important role in Europe's digital society and economy. They cover a wide range of activities including online marketplaces, social media, creative content outlets, app stores, price comparison websites, platforms for the collaborative economy as well as search engines. They increase consumer choice, improve efficiency and competitiveness of industry and can enhance civil participation in society.
Online platforms share key characteristics, such as the use of information and communication technologies to facilitate interactions between users, collection and use of data about such interactions, and network effects. These network effects make the use of the platforms with most users most valuable to other users.
Today, 1 million EU businesses are already selling goods and services via online platforms, and more than 50% of small and medium enterprises selling through online marketplaces sell cross-border. For 2017, the European Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce turnover was forecasted to reach around €602 billion, at a growth rate of nearly 14%.
The next steps: the Digital Services Act
In her political guidelines, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has committed to upgrade the Union's liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products, with a new Digital Services Act.
- Regulation (EU) on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services (July 2019)
- Proposal for an EU Regulation on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services (April 2018)
- Decision on setting up the group of experts for the Observatory on the Online Platform Economy (April 2018)
- Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online (March 2018)
- Communication on stepping up efforts to tackle illegal content online (September 2017)
- Communication on online platforms and the Digital Single Market opportunities and challenges for Europe (May 2016)
- Public consultation on the regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy (September 2015 - January 2016)
- European Commission Staff Working Document on Online Platforms (May 2016).