MEPs backed rules to force online platforms to be more transparent and fair to business clients on Thursday (6 December), with some members voicing frustration at the fact that operating systems are to be included in the scope of the regulation.
Online platforms and operating systems will have to provide clear terms and conditions for their intermediation services, should justify when they decide to terminate business relations, and will be required to disclose the methods by which businesses are ranked on their platforms.
The measures also call upon platforms to establish an effective complaint handling system, for when the above requirements are not abided by.
“Our aim is to ensure a level playing field without any unfair trading practices,” the Socialist MEP guiding the legislation through Parliament, Christel Schaldemose, said.
“This regulation will definitely make the relationship between the platforms and the businesses more fair and more transparent, which ultimately will be to the advantage of the consumer.”
Operating systems conundrum
Last week, EU ministers adopted their position on the platform-to-business file, after divisions had been laid bare in the Parliament over the potential inclusion of ‘operating systems’ in the text.
After Thursday’s approval of ‘operating systems’ to be subject to the same rules as online platforms, a number of MEPs had disagreements to air. One such was ECR British MEP Daniel Dalton.
“Operating systems are clearly not platforms and to lump them into a regulation designed for platforms fundamentally misunderstands what they are,” he told EURACTIV in emailed comments.
“Instead of better regulation we once again have a proposal which will harm European businesses and fundamentally undermine the goals of the digital single market.”
Moreover, some in the industry believe that Parliament’s draft report simply goes too far when compared with the the ‘light-touch’ approach taken by the Council, who did not include operating systems under the scope of their report.
Thomas Boué, Director General for Policy at the software alliance, BSA, shared Dalton’s concerns. “It’s surprising that, without any impact assessment and real technical considerations, the European Parliament decided to include Operating Systems in the scope of this Regulation,” he said. “Operating Systems and online intermediation services are very different.”
Boué went onto say that subjecting operating systems to the same rules as platforms could lead to the creation of “legal uncertainty and increased security risks,” a view echoed by Director General of EDiMA, the trade association for online platforms, Siada El Ramly, who said that Parliament’s report could have “extreme unintended consequences on the online ecosystem.”
During last week’s Competitiveness Council gathering, Romania’s representative at the meeting said that the completion of the P2B regulation is one of the priorities of the upcoming Romanian EU presidency, which starts in January.
Council representatives are expected to sit down with Parliament counterparts later this month in order to start negotiations on the P2B file. Before then, Parliament will have to formally adopt its mandate in the plenary, the next session of which takes place mid-December, after yesterday’s green light from the internal market committee.
With the two institutions adopting differing approaches to the platform-to-business regulation, reaching an agreement on the file may prove to be a challenging task.