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European Commission publishes ranking guidelines under the P2B Regulation to increase transparency of online search results

The Commission is publishing guidelines for online platforms on how to improve the transparency of their ranking parameters. Today, algorithmic ranking determines visibility online, which is crucial to the success of millions of businesses, especially as the current pandemic has moved more business activities online. The guidelines complement the ranking transparency requirements under the EU Platform-to-Business Regulation (P2B) and are the first of their kind globally.

The guidelines, published today, address the main requirements for online platforms identified in the P2B Regulation, from the need to identify key algorithmic parameters behind ranking to their communication to businesses. They will help online platforms make the right information available to businesses so that they in turn can consider how best to increase and manage their online visibility, enabling consumers to ultimately receive the highest quality goods and services. They will also provide valuable support for the adequate and effective enforcement of the transparency requirement to ensure online platforms are acting fairly in their ranking practices.

These guidelines are not legally binding, but they will assist platforms and search engines in complying with their obligation to be transparent on how ranking works on their services. The EU’s P2B regulation, which aims to promote fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services has applied since 12 July 2020.

Since then, online platforms and search engines are required to include a description in their terms and conditions of the main parameters which determine how prominently goods and services appear on their services. The guidelines published today provide further information on complying with these requirements, making them an important step in ensuring businesses have the information they need to improve the presentation of the goods and services they sell through these intermediaries and to be more visible online.

As the economy increasingly moves online, ranking in search and other online services is an increasingly important component of entrepreneurship as well as the commercial success of businesses in the EU who will are ever more dependent on their visibility and discoverability online, a trend which has only been accelerated by the pandemic.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said:

These guidelines set the standard for algorithmic ranking transparency and will increase fairness in the online platform economy, which drives innovation and welfare for millions of Europeans. Transparency is the European way to go, and we are putting the final touch to rules for all digital services to cooperate with regulators and for the biggest platforms to provide more information on the way their algorithms work.

European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton said:

Since businesses increasingly depend on digital solutions to reach consumers, their position in online search results can mean make it or break it. These guidelines will increase ranking transparency and allow businesses to compete fairly online in the EU Single Market. The same principles will underpin the forthcoming Digital Markets Act, which will prevent illegal behaviour before it even takes place.

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