While not yet finalized, the European institutions reached a political deal in mid-February on a new regulation providing rules for how online platforms deal with businesses and traders active on their platforms.
Widely trailed as part of the European Commission's Digital Single Market initiative, the Commission expects the regulation to apply to the entire online platform economy of approximately 7000 online platforms and market places operating in the EU, ranging from the biggest names in tech to small start- ups. More specifically, the new rules will impose a range of obligations on online platforms from ensuring the greater availability of T&Cs for platform users to mandating that platforms operate transparent ranking systems when listing products and services.
Perhaps most interestingly from a competition perspective, the regulation covers scenario where online platform is also active on its own platform (e.g. as a seller) with the rules requiring that platforms 'must exhaustively disclose any advantage they may give to their own products' as well as 'what data they collect, and how they use it'. Such obligations have parallels with some of the findings in the Commission's recently published report on Competition Policy in Digital Markets which highlighted concerns that online platforms may be illegally "leveraging" their way into products and services related to their platforms.
Accordingly, businesses may need to keep a close eye on both the European Commission's antitrust enforcers as well as the EU's legislators to have full picture on a rapidly evolving regulatory framework.
"the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission reached a political deal on the first-ever rules aimed at creating a fair, transparent and predictable business environment for businesses and traders when using online platforms."