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POLICY | 09 April 2021

EU Observatory on the Online Platform Economy

The EU Observatory on the Online Platform Economy monitors and analyses the online platform economy, supporting the Commission in policy-making.

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The Observatory

The Observatory monitors and analyses the latest trends and data in the online platform economy. The insights produced by the observatory help the Commission in policy-making for the online platform economy.

The Observatory is comprised of a group of Commission officials, a dedicated expert group of prominent independent experts and a support study. The different elements of the Observatory compliment and reinforce each other to provide the most relevant and high quality analysis to the Commission.

The Observatory has a dedicated website where professional platform users can flag issues they experience with platforms. The Observatory uses this information in its work to raise the Commission's awareness of the main issues businesses and professional users are facing on online platforms. This is crucial for informed and targeted policies.

The Observatory is part of the new rules for platform-to-business trading practices. It contributes to the Commissions wider strategy for a fair and safe online economy in the EU.

The expert group

Following a competitive selection process, the Commission has appointed 15 high-profile experts as members of the expert group for the Observatory on the Online Platform Economy. As this group is set up by a Commission Decision, it is part of the Register of Commission expert groups.

At its on 27 September 2018, the group adopted its rules of procedure and selected Prof. Bruno Liebhaberg as its chairperson. A call for the partial renewal of the group was open from 16 September to 9 November 2020.

On 26 February 2021 the final reports by the first group of experts were made public following stakeholder feedback and reactions on the progress reports which were published for consultation in July 2020.

The expert group supports the Commission in monitoring the evolution of the online platform economy for evidence-based and problem-focused policymaking.

In this role, the expert group has several tasks:

  1. advise the Commission on the main trends of the online platform economy.
  2. analyse potentially harmful practices within the online platform economy, including:
    • issues related to algorithmic decision-making and ranking, including the question of transparency;
    • access to, and use of, different categories data, including personal data;
    • issues related to remuneration for material displayed online, in particular in relation to search results;
    • transparency and accountability in business-to-business commercial relations in online advertising;
    • differentiated treatment when business users on platforms compete with products offered by the platform;
    • restrictions on business users by platforms for offering different conditions when using other distribution channels;
    • possible impacts of these potentially harmful practices on consumers;
  3. assist the Commission in the preparation of its annual work programme regarding these issues;
  4. analyse the evolution of policy measures related to the online platform economy in the Member States, the Union or in third countries;
  5. communicate with other relevant experts or centres of excellence upon the request and supervision of the Commission.

The expert group will produce a report at the end of its mandate. The report will outline the main findings of the expert group and undergo public consultation before publication. Three preliminary reports have been published.

We invite stakeholders and other relevant bodies at EU or national level to engage with the experts through the Observatory website.

The support study

A dedicated study carried out by independent contractor under the supervision of the Commission supports the work of the observatory.

It gathers data, analyses trends and supplies the observatory with the information it needs for its work.

Contributing to the observatory

Any business or professional platform user can help the observatory by submitting their experiences of any issues they have had with platforms on the observatory website. You can do this in any EU language.


Final reports of the EU Observatory on the online platform economy

The EU Observatory for the Online Platform Economy, which informs the policy work of the Commission, by providing independent views on some of the key questions that have arisen in connection to the platform economy is today publishing the final reports from the expert group following stakeholder feedback and reactions on the progress reports which were published for consultation in July 2020.

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.

New EU rules and guidance for a fairer online economy

The Commission publishes today a set of resources to help traders, online platforms and search engines get the most out of the new Platform to Business rules, which apply from this Sunday, 12 July. In addition, three progress reports prepared by the expert group for the Observatory on the Online Platform Economy are published for feedback. The reports will inform the broader work of the Commission on online platforms and in particular on the upcoming Digital Services Act package.

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