The European Commission's investigation into e-commerce, which started in May, will see more questionnaires dispatched this month focusing on the "power of online platforms".
The purpose of the Commission's inquiry is to help it to understand and tackle barriers to cross-border e-commerce. Currently, only 15% of consumers purchased online from a seller based in another EU Member State and the Commission considers that to be a problem. Things the investigation will be looking out for include:
- Contractual or other restrictions on reselling online
- Restrictions on reselling online freely across the whole of the EU
- Geo-blocking on the basis of residence or credit card details
- Price adaptation to minimise incentives for online selling
- Other disguised restrictions on online selling (e.g. quality or 'touch and try' provisions)
The forthcoming platform questionnaires are likely to focus on the purpose and usage of search engines including Google and Bing; online marketplaces including Amazon.com; eBay; Booking.com; music/video platforms including Spotify, Netflix and Vevo; app stores; social networks such as Facebook; and 'sharing economy' platforms such as Uber and Airbnb.
The questions will seek to elicit information on how and why they gather data, what they use data for and in particular whether it feeds into price adaptation. They will also look at whether the businesses are transparent about their business practices and the extent of their bargaining power over smaller companies and content providers.
If you would like more information about what this might mean for your business, get in touch now. We can help you to identify and manage potential risks before the investigation really gets going.
If you are interested in these issues, please do not hesitate to contact John Cassels
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