By Maxim Chantillon
The long expected public consultation on the Digital Single Market and ‘online platforms’ will officially be launched by the European Commission end of September. In its Digital Single Market Communication and accompanying Staff Working Document of the 6th of May, the European Commission ‘committed to undertake a comprehensive assessment on the role of the platforms’ via a public consultation. If the Commission understands the importance of online platforms for European consumers, it has some strong concerns over their increasing market power and their relation with other market participants.
The Commission recognizes the central role of the online platforms as important innovators in the digital economy, in particular in the further development of the sharing economy. Although the Communication and Staff Working Document do not contain a clear definition of online platforms, leaked documents of the consultation already give a first impression of the Commission’s orientation. According to the leaked texts, an online platform is seen as ‘a firm operating in two (or multi)-sided markets which uses the Internet to enable interactions between two or more distinct but interdependent groups of users so as to generate value for at least one of the groups’. Some of the platforms ‘also qualify as Intermediary service providers’ and the draft definition provides a list of companies such as Google, eBay, Amazon, Apple TV, Netflix, Uber Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… all to be considered as part of this ‘online platform’-group.
To ensure a smooth running of the public consultation, the Commission established a questionnaire covering topics such as the social and economic role of platforms, their transparency or their use of information with a special focus on platform users and other actors interacting with them. The consultation also touches upon the liability of online intermediaries, data and cloud in the digital systems or the collaborative economy. The questionnaire should be open for 12 weeks, with broader consultation meetings to continue early 2016. It is only once this consultation process is completed that the Commission will propose any legislative proposals, if any.
The Digital Single Market, a story to be continued!
If you are interested in learning more about the upcoming platform consultation, please contact the Political Intelligence Brussels office.