Europe, two steps and one shoulder for digital

Europe, two steps and one shoulder for digital
Two steps that in some ways are also a small shoulder: Europe has put pen to paper the good intentions for 2021, announcing interventions to redirect the digital future of the Union. The objectives expressed by the European Commission are high-sounding: "The new rules will protect consumers and their fundamental rights online more effectively and make digital markets fairer and more open for all".

A body of legislation for everything the single market will promote innovation, growth and competitiveness and provide users with new, better and reliable online services. It will also support the expansion of smaller platforms, small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups, providing them with easy access to customers across the single market, while reducing compliance costs. The new rules will also prohibit the imposition of unfair conditions by online platforms that act, or are expected to act, as controllers of access to the single market

We are currently still in the announcement phase, but the it seems to be extremely pragmatic. There are two proposals in the field and they go hand in hand:

law on digital services law on digital markets roadmap envisaged

Law on digital services

The so-called "Directive on electronic commerce" is no longer enough: it is marked by the years and by a profoundly changed context, especially in terms of the importance of the role of online intermediaries. A new space is thus created in between that Europe intends to regulate more precisely, without leaving a free hand to the market since the market itself evolves without a guide. The proposal, therefore, puts on the table "binding obligations at EU level will apply to all digital services that connect consumers to goods, services or content and new procedures will be foreseen for faster removal of illegal content and global protection. of fundamental rights of online users ".

A fundamental aspect is that platforms that reach more than 10% of the EU population (now quantifiable in 45 million users) must fall into a new category to be regulated with which interact with other tools, so that specific control can be guaranteed where the platform becomes systemic in nature and not just collateral. These are the points on which the Commission proposal focuses:

rules for the removal of illegal goods, services or content online; guarantees for users whose contents have been mistakenly deleted from the platforms; new obligations for large platforms to take risk-based measures to prevent abuse of their systems; far-reaching transparency measures, including with regard to online advertising and the algorithms used to recommend content to users; new powers to verify the functioning of platforms, also facilitating the access of researchers to key platform data; new rules on the traceability of business users in online marketplaces, to help trace sellers of illegal goods or services; an innovative cooperation process between public authorities to ensure effective application across the single market. The two proposals pursue a single goal: to guarantee us, as users, access to a wide range of secure online products and services and to companies operating in Europe to compete freely and fairly online as well as offline. It is one world. We should be able to shop safely and trust the news we read, as what is illegal offline is just as illegal online

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for A Europe Ready for the Digital Age

Law on digital markets

The law on digital markets is the one that is worrying Google, one of the first groups to have expressed concern about the principles on which the EU is working. The goal, in fact, is to limit the potential negative consequences deriving from the behavior of platforms that over time have assumed the role of controllers of access to the digital market. The services that enable access are vehicles of great opportunities, but at the same time they concentrate too much power on themselves and politics can no longer abdicate its responsibilities towards the protection of citizens.

"It is about platforms ", explains the Commission," which have a significant impact on the internal market, act as an important access point through which commercial users reach consumers and enjoy, or presumably will be able to enjoy, a consolidated and lasting position, which can confer they have the power to act as private legislators and to constitute a bottleneck between companies and consumers. Sometimes these companies have control over entire ecosystems of platforms and, if an access controller engages in unfair trading practices, valuable and innovative services from its users and commercial competitors may not reach the consumer or the access process may be slowed down " .

The antitrust issue is clearly central from this point of view, because when the citizen does not have a concrete possibility of choice (a question that is manifested in the fact that this possibility of choice is not actually exercised, creating monopolies de facto), then power is concentrated in the hands of a few. In concrete terms, therefore, the Commission is proposing a law that provides for the following:

it will only apply to the main providers of basic platform services more prone to resorting to unfair practices, such as search engines, social networks or online intermediation services, which meet the objective legislative criteria to be designated as access controllers; will set quantitative thresholds as a basis for identifying presumed access controllers. The Commission will also have the power to designate companies to act as access controllers, following a market survey; prohibit a number of clearly unfair practices, such as preventing users from uninstalling pre-installed software or applications; will require access controllers to proactively arrange certain measures, such as targeted measures that allow third party software to function properly and interoperate with their services; will provide for penalties in case of non-compliance, which could include fines of up to 10% of the global turnover of the access controller, in order to ensure the effectiveness of the new rules. In the event of recidivism, these sanctions may also include the obligation to adopt structural measures, up to the possible transfer of certain activities in cases where other equally effective alternative measures are not available to ensure compliance with the rules; will allow the Commission to carry out targeted market surveys to assess whether new practices and services of access controllers should be added to these rules in order to ensure that the new rules on access controllers keep pace with the rapid evolution of digital markets. Many online platforms now occupy a central place in the lives of our citizens and companies, and even in our society and democracy in general. With today's proposals we are organizing our digital space for the next decades. Through harmonized standards, ex ante obligations, better surveillance, swift enforcement and dissuasive sanctions we will ensure security, trust, innovation and business opportunities for anyone in Europe who offers and uses digital services

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market


The Commission's proposals will now go to the European Parliament. Parliament will be able to express itself in this regard, evaluating the individual nuances and making a "political" approval of the merits of the texts received. The favorable vote of the Parliament will make the final text directly applicable throughout the European Union, which would give birth to a new era for the EU digital market. A year-long work that is now coming to an end, in short, and that could significantly change the European perspectives and margins of action on the action of large international technological platforms.

Source: European Commission

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