While benefitting from the opportunities offered by online platforms, a large number of EU businesses trading online – particularly smaller ones – face a number of potentially harmful and unfair trading practices where their trade is intermediated by online platforms. These include delisting without a statement of reasons, or sudden changes to the platform’s terms and conditions. Effective mechanisms are needed to provide redress in such cases. At the same time, online platforms face difficulties in operating across the Single Market, due to emerging fragmentation in the regulatory environment.
In response to these concerns, in 2019 the European Parliament and Council approved and signed the Regulation on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services, which entered into force on 31 July 2019 and will apply from 12 July 2020. The Regulation establishes a set of transparency rules to be followed by online intermediation services in their relationships with business users, and provides measures for quick and effective redress. All platforms that are subject to regulation must:
- Establish an internal complaint-handling system to assist business users, and report on the functioning and effectiveness of the system at least once a year.
- Provide businesses with additional options to resolve potential problems via mediators, by identifying two or more mediators in their terms and conditions for cases in which the platform’s internal complaint-handling system is unable to resolve a dispute.
- Make their ranking mechanisms more transparent by outlining the main parameters.
- Describe and set out the considerations for any differentiated treatment.
- Provide greater clarity and predictability for business users as regards the platform-to-business (P2B) relationship in the platform’s terms and conditions (particularly with regard to the use, suspension and termination of online intermediation services).
- Provide business users with a clear description of the scope, nature and conditions of their access to, and use of, certain categories of data.
The Regulation is the first regulatory attempt in the world to establish a fair, trusted and transparent trading environment for the online platform economy, by harmonising the transparency rules applicable to contractual terms and conditions.
In 2020, this section will present a repository for the internal redress mechanisms put in place by platforms, and for public information on the functioning and effectiveness of the platforms’ internal complaint-handling systems.