What are some digital services to start with

EU launches consultations on digital and competition rules

The European Commission has launched public consultations on its long awaited legislative package on digital services. At the same time, she asked for feedback on a possible new competitive tool that is intended to correct market imbalances in various sectors.

With regard to the Digital Services Act (DSA), the consultations that opened yesterday, Tuesday, comprehensively address six topics: for example, stakeholder feedback on online safety, liability, market dominance, online advertising and smart contracts , Questions about online self-employment and the possible future governance framework for online services are collected.

"As part of this consultation, we would like to obtain the opinion of citizens and stakeholders on what a modern legal framework for digital services and online platforms in the EU should look like," said a statement by the EU Commission Vice-President responsible for digital policy Margrethe Vestager.

She further emphasizes: "Many questions are directly related to the everyday life of the citizens, and we are determined to create a secure, constructive and innovative digital future for them."

The areas on which the Commission seeks feedback are dealt with under two pillars. The first pillar aims at how the DSA could update the rules set out in the 2000 E-Commerce Directive. In particular, this concerns liability exclusions and the so-called country of origin principle, according to which online service providers are only subject to the regulations of the country in which they have their respective place of business.

Thus, it is also about the responsibility of large platforms to moderate and review content, and the question of how the supervision of the business policy of platforms at EU level could be strengthened.

The second pillar will meanwhile deal in more detail with the possibility of creating so-called ex-ante regulations, which are intended to ensure that fair and open competition is guaranteed, even for small players and newcomers, in markets that are characterized by large platforms.

“While we will continue to push platforms to take on more responsibility, we Europeans must also be ready to set our own rules of the game. Our rules for digital services are twenty years old, ”said Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton in a blog post on Tuesday.

He announced: "We want to propose clear rules before the end of the year to define the responsibility of the platforms for the protection of our citizens and our values ​​- without making them liable for all content."

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In addition, consultations have now also been launched on a “new competitive instrument” that is intended to prevent the digital economy from “tipping” the markets. There is also the question of pre-regulation of digital platforms, especially those that play a “gatekeeper” role for smaller companies, the latter being dependent on the daily use of large platforms for their own products and services.

The instrument is intended to provide structural remedial measures against competitive imbalances, but not to judge potential violations or impose fines.

At the beginning of May Vestager had already pointed out to the EU Parliament's Internal Market Committee that "a new competitive instrument" should be introduced as part of the future DSA, which aims to "prevent the markets from tipping over".

This “tipping” describes a situation in which a single company achieves high monopoly profits and market shares and thus creates an anti-competitive environment for other companies.

“This doesn't just happen in digital markets; but there it is even more obvious that a market can tip over, ”explained Vestager. She went on to explain: “Here I think it is very important that we are able to prevent this. Because we now know what kind of world we live in when we have digital gatekeepers in several markets. "

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Shared and separate competencies

Due to the supposed similarity between the consultations on the “new competitive instrument” and the regulation within the framework of the DSA, the EU Commission has emphasized that the aim of the impact assessments is to avoid “overlaps” in the work of different Commission departments.

For example, Directorates-General CONNECT (communications networks, content and technology) and GROW (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) lead the impact assessment of the DSA rules, while Directorate-General COMP (competition) is responsible for examining feedback on the 'new competitive tool' as well as structural competition problems in "digital or digitally enabled markets" are examined.

A parallel implementation of impact assessments for these two initiatives is intended to “ensure coherence and avoid possible overlaps,” said the executive.

A joint analysis of both initiatives will then take place at a later stage in order to “explore synergies and ensure the coherence of the policy options pursued, particularly with regard to possible remedial action and enforcement” and to avoid possible inconsistencies between the different DGs.

The participants in the feedback rounds that have now started are called upon to submit comments on the first impact assessments by June 30th. The general public consultations on all initiatives will run until September 8th.

Afterwards (and before the end of 2020), the Commission plans to present a legislative proposal for the Digital Services Act.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Tim Steins]