On 15 December 2020, the EU Commission presented the eagerly awaited proposals concerning two regulations, which are to better regulate online platforms in the future. Provided for, among others, are severe penalties for major online platforms if these do not comply with the new rules.
According to the Commission Proposal for a Regulation on Digital Services (Digital Services Act), in the future, online platforms shall be held more accountable for illegal and damaging contents. Both the AK and the European Consumer Organisation BEUC had urged the Commission to protect consumers online to the same degree as “offline”. This intention was also underlined by Digital Commissioner and Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager during the Presentation of the Proposals: “We should be able to do our shopping in a safe manner and trust the news we read. Because what is illegal offline is equally illegal online”.
In concrete terms, online platforms should, for example, be obliged to carry out annual risk assessments, which are to demonstrate to which extent they have counteracted the spread of illegal content. Apart from that and in order to stop the sale of counterfeit goods, or those posing a risk to consumers, the so-called “know your business customer” principle,i.e. the obligation for online marketplaces such as Amazon to check the identity of third-party providers, is also being introduced. To make future adverts more transparent for consumers, they are to contain details as to who the advertiser is and why the advert is shown to respective consumers.
However, many uncertainties remain, even though the AK - in an initial response – gave a cautious positive assessment regarding the Commission´s Proposal. It is to be feared that it will take quite some time until the same legal standards apply both online and offline and that effective legal implementation will also take far too much time in future.
Digital markets: Code of conduct for gatekeepers
The Proposal for a Regulation on digital markets is, above all, concerned with regulating online companies, so-called gatekeepers, which have a lot of power and control over the internet. The intention is to harmonise the rules regarding their definition and to ban unfair practices.
In case of non-compliance, the Proposal provides for fines of up to 10 % of the respective company’s global turnover. The basic criterion is to regardas gatekeepers those online platforms which record at least 45 million end users per month and at least 10,000 business users per year within the EU.
Failures in relation to worker protection and taxation
Within the scope of the Public Consultation on digital services, the Chamber of Labour had already made it clear that, above all, the precarious employment models of online platforms had to be stopped and fairer competition had to be ensured. Apart from that, workers had to be comprehensively protected, because especially occupational groups such as bicycle couriers, graphic designers, cleaning staff and transport service providers often suffer from precarious working conditions. However, the presented Commission Proposal on Digital Services includes only a reference to the legislative proposal for improving the working conditions of platform workers, announced for the 4th quarter of 2021.
Apart from that, as underlined beforehand by the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), it is vital to oblige online platforms to pay their fair share of taxes in the future. “We urgently need binding rules at EU level that protect consumers and employees and also provide security in the tax area”, said economist and AK expert Frank Ey.
AK/ÖGB: Better working conditions for Platform workers! (German only)