Online platforms play an important role in society and the economy, within the EU and globally. They ensure innovation, increase consumer choice and improve efficiency. They also play an important role for participation in society.
Platform economy is therefore no longer a buzzword. Because of network effects and access to data, large online platforms have so much power that they have their own dynamics.
The European legislator has recognised this and is introducing more and more regulation for online marketplaces, booking websites, social media, content platforms, price comparison websites, sharing economy platforms and search engines.
The new business model brings new opportunities and new legal challenges.
The advent of online platforms has created a new relationship: platforms 2 business (B2C) (read more here in Dutch). Online platforms provide access to cross-border markets and consumers. For this access, providers then depend to a large extent on the platforms. This dominance can encourage unfair commercial practices and restrict competition.
Online platforms are constantly faced with tension between different interests. A trade mark proprietor wants a platform to provide identifying data of users offering counterfeit online. On the other hand, the platform must safeguard the privacy of its bona fide users. This can create friction between the interests and fundamental rights of different parties. Read an article on this topic here, by Douwe Linders and Jesse Vermeij (Dutch).
With the advent of online platforms, the playing field for the media has also broadened. Traditional media are however bound by strict regulations regarding, for example, advertising. New online media forms require adjustments to media law in order to maintain a level playing field.
Advertising is an important part of the revenue model of online platforms. But should a platform actively take action against advertisements on its platform, for instance in case the portraits of well-known persons are unlawfully used (read more here and here in Dutch)?
With new regulation, European and national legislators are trying to provide an appropriate legal framework. The diversity in relevant areas of law and the technology-driven dynamics within the digital environment make it a complex but also very exciting sector.
At SOLV, we are on top of the developments surrounding online platforms. We have extensive experience in serving both platforms and other stakeholders.