Regulation 1150/2019, implemented directly into Greek Law since July 2020, introduces rules aiming to ensure a sustainable and transparent online business environment. For that purpose, it addresses the relationship between online intermediation platforms and business users.
Examples of such platforms include inter alia: e – commerce platforms, social networks, online booking platforms, reviewing sites, comparison tools/agents and online search providers. The term “business users” applies to any private individual acting in a commercial or professional capacity and to any legal person who, through online intermediation services, offers goods or services to consumers.
Online intermediation platform’s main purpose is to facilitate transactions between business users and consumers by giving access and hosting online products and services originated by these users.
Since online intermediation services typically have a global dimension, this regulation applies to the providers of those services, regardless of whether they are established in a Member State or outside the European Union, provided that two cumulative conditions are met. Firstly, business users should be established in the Union and secondly, they should -through the provision of those services- offer their goods or services to consumers located in the Union, at least for part of the transaction.
The Regulation focuses on two main pillars: Improving the levels of transparency surrounding these services and implementing effective redress mechanisms to address disruptions in the online platform economy.
Particularly, it addresses the potential disruptions between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and online intermediation platforms. The services provided by these platforms, help SMEs to create new business opportunities by enabling them to reach consumers more easily. They also benefit consumers through ‘consumption benefits’, such as lower prices and a larger variety of goods or services provided online. However, this growing intermediation of transactions leads to an increased dependence of such enterprises on those services and calls for a wider strategy for a fair and safe online economy in the EU.
The key provisions of this Regulation include:
– specific obligations, online intermediation platforms should follow in respect of their terms and conditions, such as the obligation to justify their decisions to suspend or terminate or impose any other kind of restriction in the provision of their services to business users.
– the disclosure of the ranking criteria applied when intermediation platforms and search engines display the results of an online search or the order of offerings listed on a digital marketplace.
– the establishment of internal systems for handling the complaints of business users.
– the introduction of specialized mediation services with the purpose of facilitating amicable settlement of disputes.
– The establishment of an EU Observatory on the Online Platform Economy, which will monitor and analyze the latest trends and data in the online platform economy.
Overall, the Regulation sets a useful regulatory framework for the online environment. It aims to eradicate certain discriminatory practices in the provision of online intermediation services to business users, subsequently improving transparency for all transactions and fostering healthier competition. In addition, the Observatory’s insights can further contribute to the design of even more effective online policies.
However, it tends to focus more on procedural rules such as the amicable settlement of disputes, rather than approaching other substantial practical matters related to unilaterality in negotiations, vertical restrictions, unfair terms or the use of other improper commercial practices.
Moreover, although the Regulation clarifies how the information supplied in the context of the platforms’ services will be processed, it does not address the critical issue of providing financial institutions with a compulsory and objective system for accessing data. The creation of such a system would ensure that no abuse of power occurs, in cases that access to data creates competitive advantage.
At a European level, a sector- specific approach of these online activities might be needed, so that the aforementioned issues could be resolved.
As far as the full harmonization of the Regulation into Greek legislation is concerned, Law 4753/2020 was currently adopted, setting additional measures for its implementation. Particularly, it includes specific actions business users may exercise in order to defend their rights conferred in the Regulation and introduces sanctions for possible infringements.
Edited by Sotirchou Dafni