EU proposes regulating how web platforms treat businesses

EU proposes regulating how web platforms treat businesses
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The European Union is considering new rules governing how internet platforms interact with businesses that rely on them to reach consumers online.

The new proposals from the European Commission, the EU’s executive wing, would require platforms such as Google to be more transparent with businesses about their placement in search engine results, which can have a huge impact on a company’s success.

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“These new online market places drive growth and innovation in the EU, but we need a set of clear and basic rules to ensure a sustainable and predictable business environment,” Andrus Asip, the commission’s vice president for the digital market, said in a statement Thursday.

“Today's proposal brings more transparency to the online economy, gives businesses the predictability they need, and will ultimately benefit European consumers."

The rules would require internet platforms to lay out terms of agreement with businesses that would detail why they might lose prominent placing in search results or other platform features. Internet giants would also have to disclose if they’re favoring their own services over competitors.

That issue prompted the EU to hit Google with a record $2.7 billion antitrust fine last year for elevating its own comparison shopping service in its search results.

The new proposal would also allow businesses to band together to take legal action against internet platforms over disputes, and web firms will be required to set up systems to handle complaints about how companies are being treated.

Tech groups are already complaining about regulators singling out internet giants.

“The idea of regulation directed solely at platforms is questionable,” Dean Garfield, CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, said in a statement. “We hope that the Commission’s proposal on platform to business operations finds the right balance of allowing economic growth to continue while narrowly tailoring policy to ensure it addresses concrete concerns.”