Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have recently reviewed the progress of talks on the Digital Single Market Act during a joint meeting of the Internal Market & Consumer Protection and Industry, Research & Energy Committees. MEPs Evelyne Gebhardt (S&D) and Kaja Kallas (ALDE) – co-Rapporteurs for the Report – provided an overview of the proposed legislation, which is of great significance for the e-commerce sector.
Online platforms: to regulate or not to regulate?
One of the most controversial issues that has arisen in the course of last week’s discussions is the role of online platforms. MEP Gebhardt, among others, expressed the view that an all-encompassing definition of platforms is not feasible given the sheer variety of services provided on them. This absence of a clear definition poses a significant challenge to regulators. The Liberal group in the European Parliament (ALDE) nevertheless believes that regulation of platforms would only harm innovation and economic growth by placing burdensome restrictions on online businesses.
The resolution calls on the European Commission to check whether potential issues related to online platforms could be resolved by applying existing rules properly and to give clear guidance on how consumer rules apply to traders using these platforms, an approach that Ecommerce Europe could support as well. Should online platforms become subject to specific regulation, Ecommerce Europe believes that this must be based on a very carefully formulated definition in order to safeguard a business-friendly environment. In view of the growing importance of platforms in the digital economy, Ecommerce Europe is also in the process of preparing a position paper on the issue which will be forwarded to stakeholders and policy makers beginning next year.
Innovation and competitiveness at the heart of the Digital Single Market
Throughout the debate MEPs put a clear emphasis on the need for a policy that facilitates market entry and competition, particularly for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). MEP Kallas warned that companies of this size would lack the resources necessary to comply with a dense legislative framework, a view that Ecommerce Europe fully endorses. MEP Gebhardt likewise stressed the importance that start-ups and SMEs should have the same access to the online marketplace as the “big players”. In addition, there was a clear consensus among those present about the need to maintain the same set of rules for online and offline services, a position that Ecommerce Europe has long been advocating for.
The Digital Single Market Act draft resolution has been adopted this week by a big majority of 80 votes to 6 and it will be put to a vote in the European Parliament’s Plenary in January 2016. Ecommerce Europe will be closely following the final stage of negotiations in order to assess potential impacts on the e-commerce sector.