11 European governments petition for a light-touch approach to EU regulation of online platforms

Written on 4 Apr 2016

In a letter addressed to EU Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, a group of 11 European governments has joined forces to appeal for a light-touch approach to the regulation of online platforms. The letter was sent in response to the Commission’s investigation into online “platforms”, which include sites such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, and is expected to culminate in a package of legislative proposals for regulation of online platforms (read more here).

Petitioners include senior ministers from the UK, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria and Lithuania.

The letter states that platforms “are already subject to significant regulation“. The petitioners view is that platforms benefit businesses and consumers and “should be primarily seen as an opportunity, not a threat“. The signatories warn that further regulation could be damaging to innovation and competition:

[platforms] offer advantages for businesses and consumers alike. Businesses use platforms to reach more customers and expand into new markets. They benefit from new funding models and reduced costs. Consumers benefit from increased information and convenience, choice and quality of services, and savings in money and time…. If at all possible, we should avoid introducing legislation that might act as a barrier to the development of new tech, media and comms models… it would not be in the interests of European businesses nor of consumers and would put us at a disadvantage in relation to global competition

The message will be welcomed by many industry players, who will be keen to ensure that any legislative changes proposed by the Commission do not unduly hamper their ability to operate in the market place.

The investigation into platforms forms part of the Commission’s wider Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy, which aims to create a true digital single market across the EU. As part of the project the Commission has commenced enquiries into online retail of consumer products and access to online digital content, with a particular focus on contractual geo-blocking (using contractual terms to restrict where content or products can be accessed or sold on the internet). We consider the Commission’s initial findings on the geo-blocking, which were released little more than a week ago, here.

The Commission is expected to unveil a further package of communications relating to the DSM on 18 April, this time focusing on the Commission’s plans to modernise the industry for digital services and boost investment.

For more on the EU’s DSM strategy and the implications for your business, visit our DSM hub, or speak to one of our experts.