Today, the European Parliament approved the new regulation on platform-to-business trading practices that is aimed at establishing a fair environment for businesses and traders when using online platforms.
Online platforms allow fast access to the international consumers markets online, which is why they have become the go-to place for millions of businesses.
The new rules will cover online companies, target e-commerce market places, app stores, social media and price comparison tools.
Google’s three products Play, Shopping and Search, Apple’s App Store, Microsoft’s Store and Bing, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Fnac Marketplace, Facebook’s Instagram, Skyscanner, Yahoo! and DuckDuckGo are some of the companies affected by the rules.
With the new rules, Europe wants to address structural issues of online platforms and prevent unfair business trading practices.
Digital platforms can no longer suspend or terminate a seller's account without clear reasons, and possibilities to appeal. The platform will also have to reinstate sellers if a suspension was made in error.
Marketplaces and search engines will need to disclose the main parameters they use to rank goods and services on their site, to help sellers understand how to optimise their presence. The rules aim to help sellers without allowing gaming of the ranking system.
Some online platforms not only provide the marketplace, but are also sellers on the same marketplace at the same time. According to the new transparency rules platforms must exhaustively disclose any advantage they may give to their own products over others. They must also disclose what data they collect, and how they use it – and in particular how such data is shared with other business partners they have. Where personal data is concerned, the rules of the GDPR apply.
In addition, all platforms must set up an internal complaint-handling system to assist business users.
“This new regulation will positively contribute to achieving the digital single market, while reinforcing trust and predictability online,” tech lobbying group EDiMA said. Its members include Amazon, Apple, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla.
The text adopted today by the European Parliament still has to be formally approved by the Council of the European Union. Once approved, the regulation will enter into force 12 months after its publication in the Official Journal.