Insights European Commission publishes Communication proposing new, targeted approach to online platform rules.

The Commission has outlined a targeted, principles-based approach, to fix the problems flagged by respondents to the Commission’s recent consultation on online platforms.  The Commission says that it will support industry and stakeholder efforts for self- and co-regulation to ensure the new approach remains flexible and up-to-date.  The action areas include:

  • comparable rules for comparable digital services: comparable digital services should follow the same or similar rules and, where possible, the Commission will reduce the scope and extent of existing regulation. The Commission says that it will apply these principles in its ongoing review of EU telecoms legislation and of the e-Privacy Directive, for example when considering whether rules on confidentiality should apply to providers of online communications services as well as traditional telecoms companies;
  • an obligation for online platforms to behave responsibly: the existing intermediary liability regime, set out in the e-Commerce Directive, will be maintained. Specific problems will be addressed through targeted instruments, such as audiovisual or copyright rules, or enhanced voluntary efforts by industry.  For example, the Commission is currently working with major online platforms on a code of conduct to combat hate speech online and will present the results in the coming weeks;
  • trust is a must: cross-border enforcement cooperation will ensure that platforms fulfil their obligations regarding consumer rights, for example by making it clear when search results are sponsored. The Commission will also encourage industry to step-up voluntary efforts to tackle practices such as fake or misleading online reviews.  The Commission will also encourage online platforms to recognise different kinds of secure electronic identifications (eID), which offer the same reassurance as their own eID systems;
  • open markets for a data-driven economy: the “free flow of data” initiative, scheduled for the end of 2016, will facilitate switching and the portability of data among different online platforms and cloud computing services; and
  • a fair and innovation-friendly business environment: the Commission will carry out a fact-finding exercise into issues raised in the consultation by those who interact directly with platforms. These include, for example, concerns over unfair terms and conditions, in particular for access to important databases, market access and a general lack of transparency.  On this basis, the Commission will determine, by spring 2017, whether additional EU action in this area is needed.

To read the Commission’s press release in full and for a link to the Commission’s Communication, click here.