EU should be cautious about regulating Internet platforms, Vestager says

18 June 15. By Matthew Newman.

Europe should be cautious about proposing rules to regulate online platforms such as Amazon.com and eBay, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said today.

The European Commission needs to collect more information about what an Internet platform is before making any legislative proposals, Vestager said at a conference* in London.

“Some of the services that we see, what they share is the word ‘platform,’ and that’s about it,” she said, mentioning companies including Facebook, Uber, SAP, Amazon and eBay.

Vestager said the commission is talking to interested parties to determine whether regulation may be needed. Rules that are passed in two or three years may not tackle today’s problems or future issues, she said.

“The risk is that you don’t have a piece of legislation that solves the present-day problem, not to speak about future problems,” she said.

The French and German governments have called on the commission to propose legislation on Internet platforms, which are broadly defined as online marketplaces to buy and sell products and sites where users receive a service or exchange information.

France recently passed legislation that imposes new transparency rules on e-commerce companies. That measure calls for all “intermediaries” — including e-commerce platforms and search engines — to “deliver fair, clear and transparent information about the general terms and conditions of their service.” It also requires them to provide information on how they “reference, de-reference and classify” their online offers.

Vestager said that existing competition rules may be sufficient to tackle antitrust problems with Internet companies. In some case, she has seen “very ordinary human behavior” by companies that want to make more money than their competitors or eliminate them, she said.

“If that would be the case, then we have very good tools that have been tested [over] time,” she said. “Our challenge is to keep them sharp and to understand what we’re dealing with.”

	Eliot Gao