Each online platform’s terms and conditions of use include various legal requirements with which enterprises must comply. Misunderstanding of these terms can cause various issues for the companies involved. According to a Eurostat survey of companies from 2016, around 30-40% of enterprises considered terms and conditions to be unclear to them.

Figure 33. Terms and conditions clarity: share of enterprises in selected countries, % (Survey 2016)

Most online marketplaces have terms and conditions which explain how your company may use the website or the sales app as well as the various legal requirements that websites or sales apps must comply with. These include: privacy policy, cookie policy, and intellectual property rights such as copyright terms. Thinking about the terms and conditions on online marketplaces, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

“In general, the terms and conditions are clear”

Source: Eurobarometer 439

The Platform to Business Regulation, that entered into application on 12 July 2020, requires online platform intermediaries and general online search engines to provide more transparency and clarity on a number of elements to create a more predictable business environment for the business users of platforms. In October 2020, more than half of respondents to our study survey had not noticed any changes in the clarity of the terms and conditions of the main platform they use. Yet, 20 to 28% of business users noticed an improvement of transparency, especially regarding their access to data or the possibility to influence the ranking of goods and services on the platform.

Figure 34. Terms and conditions change: share of respondents, % (PPMI survey, second wave)

Overall, during 2020, have you noticed any change in the transparency and clarity of the following elements in your relationship with [main platform] (e. g. in the terms and conditions)?

Source: PPMI Survey. Second wave (October 2020). N=1990.

According to the first wave of our study survey conducted in 2019, a majority of companies agree that the costs of platform services are adequate, that platforms treat their users in an unbiased and fair way, that the contractual terms and conditions of the platforms are fair and that access to data and guidance are easy. Competition between companies using online marketplaces is considered to be fairly high. In general the responses received in the second survey wave in 2020 were broadly similar to the first wave of the survey. The most noticeable changes were the decreases in the share of businesses agreeing that the costs of the platforms are adequate, that their business was able to negotiate contractual terms with the platform, and that it is easy to obtain help and guidance from the platform to operate. The latter element may have deteriorated partially due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Figure 35. Experience with online platforms: share of enterprises, % (PPMI survey, 2019)

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your experience with this online platform?

Source: PPMI survey. First wave (I) November 2019 N=1667, Second wave (II) October 2020 N=1990.

While nearly half of business respondents to our surveys did not experience problems with the main platforms they use, the share of companies that experienced at least once problems, disputes or disagreements with the online platform decreased from 46% in 2019 to 38% in 2020. In addition, the share of businesses often experiencing problems with the main online platform they use has been divided by two in one year.

Figure 36. Occurrence of problems with online platforms: share of enterprises, % (PPMI survey)

Has your business ever experienced any problems, disputes or disagreements with the online?

Source: PPMI survey. First wave (I) November 2019 N=1667, Second wave (II) October 2020 N=1990.

Of those respondents that had experienced any type of problem with a platform, in 2020 the majority stated that this related either to technical problems (33%) or sudden changes to pricing (18%), while in 2019 the most reported issue was the suspension of their business account (28%).

Figure 37. Type of problems with online platforms: share of enterprises, % (PPMI Survey)

What was/ were the cause(s) of these problems, disputes or disagreements?

Source: PPMI survey. First wave (November 2019) N=769, Second wave (October 2020) N= 768.

In 2019, most business users experiencing problems with a platform complained to the platform or went to court, while in 2020 businesses made more use of a diverse range of out of court remedies, including complaints, mediation, arbitration, ombudsman and other dispute resolution mechanisms.

Figure 38. Steps to remedy problems: share of enterprises, % (PPMI Survey)

What steps did your business take to resolve or remedy these problems, disputes or disagreements?

Source: PPMI survey. First wave (November 2019) N=769, Second wave (October 2020) N= 768.