Online platforms have become a hot policy topic for many governments and regulators around the world of late, including the European Commission (EC). In fact, the EC recently concluded a months-long assessment of the effects platforms have on consumers, businesses and the economy as a whole. Its findings are welcome news for developers utilising existing online platforms, building their own, or developing innovative tools and services for local and global platforms.
The EC’s Communication on online platforms released last week assesses the role of platforms in Europe and outlines its plan to clarify its rules on the EU's collaborative economy. The EC’s findings after examining a variety of platforms used for advertising, social media, search engines and app stores, were universally favourable. This includes its conclusion that “online platforms will play a ‘key role’ in providing support and effective growth in the Digital Single Market” and that platforms are “beneficial to both individuals and businesses”.
The EC’s position, and its stated preference to regulate online platforms on a sector-by-sector basis, is welcome news for developers. There had been concerns that a “one-size-fits-all approach” to the regulation of online platforms could stifle innovation and hamper growth, particularly among developers, startups and companies working in the sharing economy. Companies like AirBnB, Uber and others are already engaged in regulatory fights in the UK, Spain, Portugal and France.
Fortunately, it appears that the Commission recognises that the sharing economy is one of the fastest growing markets not only within the EU, but globally, and should not be stifled or over-regulated. Members States of the European Union still have the power on a national level to regulate online platforms and specific issues that could relate to, for example, the sharing economy, but for now the Commission has sent a clear message that the sharing economy is here to stay.