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New EU rules and guidance for a fairer online economy

The European Commission has published a set of resources to help traders, online platforms and search engines get the most out of the newly introduced Platform to Business rules.

In addition, three progress reports prepared by the expert group for the Observatory on the Online Platform Economy are have been published for feedback. The reports will inform the broader work of the Commission on online platforms and in particular on the upcoming Digital Services Act package.

The EU has adopted the first set of rules regulating the platform economy. Businesses and traders selling online via marketplaces will now know which criteria will determine their position in search results, hotels using booking platforms will have greater clarity and protection from unfair terms and conditions, app developers will have a chance to challenge decisions by app stores that wish to remove their content.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “The more than 10,000 online platforms in the European Union (EU) are only one part of a broader digital services ecosystem that drives innovation. Despite their role as an essential resource during the on-going health crisis, major issues of fairness and safety have to be addressed.

"The new rules will ban certain unfair practices such as unexplained account suspension, unclear terms and conditions; ensure greater transparency about ranking, level the playing field among online platforms and search engines and provide new possibilities for resolving disputes and complaints.”

Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “Trust is key when it comes to the online economy. Businesses are increasingly moving online – a trend that the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced.

"To ensure that we have a fair, transparent and predictable online environment, all operators need to adapt to the new rules we are implementing. They will strengthen trust in the online platform economy and make it strive for the benefit of all.”

The Commission will also publish official guidelines on ranking in the coming weeks to help online platforms and search engines improve predictability and transparency to help businesses consider how best to increase and manage their online visibility.

Q&A on Platform to Business for small businesses

The Commission has prepared a Q&A document that can serve as a checklist for online platforms and search engines, particularly smaller ones, when implementing the new requirements. It will help businesses get information on their new rights and the options available to resolve problems that may arise in their commercial relationships with online platforms.

It also contains useful information for online intermediation services, search engines and representative organisations or associations.

Progress reports of the expert group for the observatory on the online platform economy

The expert group for the Observatory for the Online Platform Economy has supported the Commission in monitoring the market and the effective implementation of the new rules.

The three progress reports point to imbalances in market power in the relationship between online platforms and their business users in terms of both access to and the use of data, as well as to discrimination as a potential source of issues in the online platform economy.

Stakeholders, including online platforms, the businesses relying on these online platforms, experts as well as enforcers are invited to provide feedback by 8 September.

Two more reports will be produced on online advertising and platforms with significant market power that will, alongside the present reports, feed into a final contribution by the expert group of the Observatory later this year.

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