Online platform representatives and SMEs discuss opportunities, challenges and the right policy framework during the “Online Platform Ecosystem” debate organized by CCIA

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On 6 June 2018, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) organized a debate on the legislative framework for online platforms. The European Commission, online platform representatives and SMEs discussed the proposed Platform-2-Business Regulation as well as challenges SMEs face when dealing with online platforms and customers.

The debate was divided into two panels. The first panel focused on the Commission’s P2B proposal and the development of the right policy framework. The second panel opened with a discussion with representatives of various European SMEs who talked about challenges and obstacles they encounter when conducting their daily business.

Getting the policy right without stifling innovation

During the first panel Mr. Werner Stengg, Head of Unit “E-Commerce and Online Platforms” at the European Commission – DG CONNECT, set the scene by explaining the goals of the P2B Regulation. Mr. Stengg stated that the Commission’s aim was to establish clear rules of the game, ensure predictability and transparency as well as adequate redress possibilities and monitoring. These measures, he continued, were necessary to ensure fair competition in this fast-moving industry. The main issues that were pointed out during the debate were competition between start-ups and tech giants, transparency, taxation of platforms, and data protection.

Mr. Samuel Laurinkari, Head of EU Affairs at eBay, highlighted the need to maintain platforms’ capacity to innovate. At the same time, Michela Palladino (Developers Alliance) pointed to a Developer Alliance’s survey which showed that 81% of developers and publishers think that their relationship with platforms should not be regulated.

Mr. Werner concluded that the P2B Regulation’s aim was to iron out the friction in the online platform ecosystem by bringing about behavioral change and ensuring platforms better explain how they operate.

SMEs and their view

During the second panel, representatives of SMEs laid out the challenges they face when dealing with their consumers and platforms. The most pressing issues that sellers on online platforms face are, among others, different mentalities of consumers, logistics barriers, the return of products without an obligation from the buyer to explain the reasons for return, different VAT rules across the EU, and delisting of products without the ability to challenge that decision. However, the most important challenge they highlights was the lack of human interaction between the sellers and the online platforms. Automated responses from platforms and inability to quickly get in touch with a human on the platform’s side can greatly delay the solution to a problem.

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