The public consultation of the European Commission into the role of online platforms in the digital economy has already caused quite a stir amongst concerned tech lobbyists in Brussels. Now, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip has announced that the investigation will run into next year at the earliest.
EU Commission’s concerns with platforms
The Commission wants to investigate the role of platforms because, according to Ansip, it receives “expressed concerns from players from many quarters about online platforms’ control of data, market strength and bargaining power, as well as various aspects related to access”. Ansip stressed that platforms should be “instruments of opportunities” for other industries. With the consultation, the Commission wants to assess if there are indeed any hindrance factors to the innovation capacity of the market.
In the week of the 21st of September, Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger is expected to announce a public consultation on online platforms. His Vice-President Ansip suggested earlier that the consultation could take on platforms in industries as diverse as social media, entertainment, e-commerce, and search engines. Official public consultations of the European Commission consist of written questionnaires and usually remain open for a period of 12 weeks.
Earliest initiatives in Spring 2016
However, Ansip also indicated that the wider consultation – roundtables, meetings, and informal consultations on top of the written public consultation – would continue into beginning of next year. His staff confirmed that the Commission will only then assess whether new measures are needed on platforms. If any initiatives would be announced, this would accordingly be done in spring 2016 at the earliest.
Ecommerce Europe’s position
Ecommerce Europe will stay in dialogue with the European Commission about the upcoming consultation. In case of market distortions in the European e-commerce market due to online platforms, Ecommerce Europe pleads for stronger and faster pan-European action to ensure equal access for all online merchants to services of online platforms such as results of comparison tools, search engines and big data. Online comparison sites and search engines should enable a transparent competitive market so that SMEs and their consumers can continue to benefit from the services these tools provide.
For more information about Ecommerce Europe’s ideas to ensure fair competition in the European e-commerce market, please click here to read the Ecommerce Europe Priority Paper (2015).