Online platforms have rapidly changed the way businesses can contact consumers. Today, the companies can easily offer products and services in just a few clicks away, while consumers benefit from innovative solutions that allow them to get a holiday accommodation or a shared car quickly, affordably, and in addition simple.
But is it really a path of roses for all parts?
For many companies, the answer is no. Some of them realize that they are increasingly dependent on a relatively small number of powerful online platforms, which filter and control business access to millions of consumers across a wide geographical area. It is No wonder that these unbalanced relationships raise certain problems, and companies can rightly feel powerless in such circumstances. This kind of climate discourages many of them from taking advantage of online platform sales opportunities on both the domestic and international markets.
The Commission has also created an Observatory on the Economy of the Online Platforms, which has already begun its functions of monitoring and analysis of the evolution of the situation, in order to achieve a better understanding of the online economy and allow the development of policies informed and flexible at the EU level. The Observatory’s ‘ad hoc’ expert group is working on a first set of technical papers, which will be published in September and discussed in greater detail with interested parties.
But the story doesn’t end here. These measures are only a first step in ensuring that both consumers and European companies can benefit from all the advantages offered by online platforms. Given that platforms established in the EU account for around 2% of the value of global online platforms, the EU needs more promoters of the digital society, as well as a favourable environment associated with a proactive industrial policy. It is also important to monitor the situation closely to ensure that the business models of online platforms benefit us all and do not undermine our values, our societies and our security. These are the next challenges we will have to face… in the very near future.
Better informed companies will be able to make more appropriate decisions, and online platforms will be subject to a single legal regime at EU level that will not stifle their ability to bring new ideas. Furthermore, increasing transparency and fair competition really benefits European consumers by offering them a wider range of options and, of course, potentially lower prices.
These new rules will ensure a level playing field between European and non-European online platforms. As long as a European consumer can buy through an online platform, with or without EU headquarters, the new rules will apply to both sides, without harming our European companies in a context of fierce competition with foreign rivals from countries such as China and the United States.