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 25. 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

According to a survey conducted by PPMI for this study in 2019, a majority of companies agree that the cost 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 both data and guidance are easy. Competition between companies using online marketplaces is considered to be fairly high.

Figure 26. Experiences with online platforms: share of enterprises, % (PPMI survey, 2019)

Q10. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your experience with this online platform (main platform from Q9)?

Source: PPMI survey (N=1667)

However, more than 46% of companies responding to our survey said they had experienced problems, disputes or disagreements with the online platform at least once.

Figure 27. Problems with online platforms: share of enterprises, % (PPMI survey, 2019)

Q18. Has your business ever experienced any problems, disputes or disagreements with the online platform (main platform from Q9)?

Source: PPMI survey (N=1667)

Of those respondents that had experienced any type of problem with a platform, the majority stated that this related either to the suspension of their business account or technical problems.

Figure 28. Experience with online platforms: share of enterprises, % (PPMI survey, 2019)

Q19. What was/ were the cause(s) of these problems, disputes or disagreements?

Source: PPMI survey (N=1667)

Another important component of a platform’s power over its users is the mechanism it offers for dispute resolution. In the majority of EU countries selected, the companies surveyed tended to disagree with the reliability and fairness of the dispute resolution system used by search engines or marketplaces. This is an important finding, since it might indicate a misuse of power by platforms with respect to the businesses that depend heavily upon them.

Figure 29. Search engine dispute resolution: share of enterprises in selected countries, % (Survey 2016)

To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements about search engines. This includes general and specialist search engines or search engines which are integrated in marketplaces:

If you have a dispute with the search engine operator, there is a reliable dispute resolution system that you can use (courts, competition authorities, arbitration)

Source: Eurobarometer 439

When it comes to data collection, many opportunities are available for businesses to use data about their customers to adjust their commercial strategies. Overall, more than 50% of enterprises in the selected European countries agree that the information they received via online marketplaces about their customers’ preferences are useful for the development and improvement of their products or services.

Figure 30. Data and Use of information: share of enterprises in selected countries, % (Survey 2016)

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements on online marketplaces:

The information you receive through the online marketplace about the behaviour and preferences of your customers is useful for the development or improvement of your products or services

Source: Eurobarometer 439

Although the data about customers available via online marketplaces is considered by the majority of enterprises to be useful for their business, in the 2016 survey only half of companies claimed that they could obtain the data they need from the online marketplaces.

Figure 31. Data on customers: share of enterprises in selected countries, % (Survey 2016)

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements on online marketplaces:

You usually get the data you need about your customers from online marketplaces

Source: Eurobarometer 439

The data collected by the online platforms is a two-way system: they collect information not only about consumers, but also about the companies that use the platform. The majority of companies (around 60%) are aware that online marketplaces collect data about their activities, and understand how this data is used.

Figure 32. Data on companies: share of enterprises in selected countries, % (Survey 2016)

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements on online marketplaces:

You know what data are collected by the online marketplace about the activity of your company and how it is used

Source: Eurobarometer 439

With the high competition among the online marketplaces there might be difficulties for users to switch platform. Some platforms might make it more difficult to transfer the data in order to create barriers for companies to leave their services. Almost half of the surveyed companies claim that it is not easy to transfer their key commercial data from one online marketplace to another.

Figure 33. Access to commercial data: share of enterprises in selected countries, % (Survey 2016)

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements on online marketplaces:

You can easily transfer your key commercial data from one online marketplace to another (for example customer ratings)

Source: Eurobarometer 439