The development of new digital technologies, behavioural patterns and business models is challenging the status quo and raising questions about how platforms function within the Digital Single Market. The European Commission is rightly emphasising the importance of this issue and collecting evidence as the basis for a comprehensive analysis of the role of online platforms within the Digital Single Market Strategy.
Platforms should be primarily seen as an opportunity, not a threat. Platforms are a development to be positive about. They are creative, innovative and drive growth and competitiveness. The reason they have succeeded is that they offer advantages for businesses and consumers alike. Businesses use platforms to reach more customers and expand into new markets. They benefit from new funding models and reduced costs. Consumers benefit from increased information and convenience, choice and quality of services, and savings in money and time. It is thus important that platforms are allowed to continue to be the drivers of innovation and to meet customer demand.
Platforms are already subject to significant regulation. Platforms must operate within the law and ministers believe that they should look to the existing regulatory framework to solve any concerns about the way platforms operate, whenever this is possible. Existing legislative and non-legislative instruments, including data protection law, competition law and consumer law, already apply to platforms and can be used to regulate them. In addition, they mentioned that they should make sure that they have explored the role of industry self-regulation fully as this may often be more appropriate and effective than government regulation in the fast pace of the digital world. For them in the first place is focus on implementing existing laws effectively and consistently rather than adding to the burden of regulation on businesses.
Platforms must not be hampered by cumbersome regulation. Platforms are hugely varied and cover a wide range of business models. Policy questions are therefore rarely applicable exclusively to platforms, and when they are, they are limited to a subset of platforms. Adoption of new ex-ante regulation targeting online platforms as a segment of the digital economy is not desirable unless there is clear and compelling evidence of need, as there is a high risk that such new regulation would be ill-suited to the dynamic nature of the sector.