Translated by
Nicola Mira
Mar 7, 2018
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European Union at work on new regulations for online marketplaces

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Mar 7, 2018

The European Commission is working on new regulations for online trading practices, heralding changes for both marketplaces and sellers.

An E-commerce Europe working group in February 2018 - Ecommerce Europe

E-commerce Europe and France's e-commerce federation (FEVAD) provided an initial insight on the new regulatory orientation, following a series of meetings with Werner Stengg, Head of the E-Commerce and Online Platforms Unit at the European Commission - DG CONNECT, the body within the EC tasked with supervising the European online single market. The goal of this regulatory project is to create a framework for and improve Platform-to-Business (P2B) trading practices, specifically for websites employing more than ten people and with an annual revenue in excess of €2 million.

Should it become European law, the current proposal means that websites would need to give a 15-day advance warning before any change in their terms and conditions. They would also be required to motivate and justify every instance of suspension or cancellation of professional user accounts. Websites would also need to be transparent about how they classify professional sellers, as well as about the different treatments they offer or propose to sellers.

Websites employing more than 50 people and generating a revenue in excess of €10 million would need to deploy web tools to handle complaints from professional users. And also make sure that such complaints are dealt with "within a short period of time, relative to the complexity of the issues raised," said FEVAD. A clear, unambiguous response would be required, as well as the publication of a six-monthly report on the functioning and effectiveness of the complaint-handling procedure.

"Organisations and associations with a legitimate interest in representing professional users would need to be able to do so in a court of law, in accordance with the national legislation of the [European Union] member state where the case has been brought to court, in order to prevent from or stop web platforms breaching the obligations prescribed by current regulations," said FEVAD, which stated it is closely following the proposed bill's evolution.

In 2016, online sales of goods and services in Europe were worth €530 billion, up 15%, and are expected to have topped the €600 million mark in 2017. Nearly 80% of all companies now sell online, directly or through partners. Ultimately, the European Commission intends to create a single European online market, to facilitate cross-border sales. In 2016, 18% of European online buyers placed orders in a EU country different from theirs, compared to 12% in 2013.

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