The digital economy

 

Dutch society is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of digitalization. Businesses offer services and products that are now part of our daily lives. Digitalization produces enormous benefits and innovation, but it also carries risks. People and businesses should be protected against the risks of digitalization. They should be able to navigate online markets with confidence.

In 2020-2021, ACM will focus on the following two subtopics:

1. Online misleading practices

Why do people accept general terms and conditions almost absentmindedly? What does actually happen with data of and about individuals? And what techniques do businesses use to influence the choices that people make? Businesses are able to influence more and more effectively the choices that individuals make online. In that context, it is not always clear to businesses and consumers at what point legally-permitted persuasion techniques turn into misleading practices. Society is calling for more clarity about the boundaries of online persuasion techniques.

In virtually all sectors, the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence among businesses continues to grow. This may help towards faster production processes, more efficient logistical processes or more personalized selections and offers. However, the way in which this takes place as well as in which the data is selected may involve risks for individuals. Think, for example, of discrimination. In its oversight, ACM wants to pay special attention to the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence by businesses.

2. Access to platforms and ecosystems

Today, a world without online platforms and ecosystems is practically unimaginable. Ecosystems are environments where different applications are able to collaborate by communicating with each other. In addition, businesses are able to join forces in such environments when providing their services. The rapid rise and growth of online platforms and ecosystems offer people and businesses many innovations and benefits. At the same time, the way in which certain markets have been shaken up in a relatively short period of time has also created a certain level of anxiety. Globally-operating companies successfully enter new and existing markets, within and outside the digital economy. Their online platforms and ecosystems are able to grow so fast that no one will be able to ignore them. Platforms could unfairly use this gatekeeper function vis-à-vis buyers and suppliers with the aim to strengthening their own positions. That is why ACM is keeping an eye out for situations where big online platforms use unfair access conditions. All providers, large and small, should have the opportunity to reach their customers and other businesses.

In 2021, we will continue to deal with the following topics:

Promoting fast and affordable broadband

ACM does its best to ensure that everyone has fast broadband connections, for example by stimulating the roll-out of fiber-optic connections and 5G. In addition, ACM in 2021 will complete a study into the price trends and innovation in the market for fixed telecom and broadband services in order to find out whether this market is functioning properly at the moment. On the basis of that study, among other things, ACM will offer more clarity regarding the future regulatory regime on the fixed-telecom market. New legislation offers more opportunities for offering telecom providers without their own networks access to a fixed network if that is needed for ensuring that the market functions properly.

Enforcement actions against online misleading practices

In its Guidelines on the protection of the online consumer, ACM explains at what point online persuasion turns into online deception. On the basis of those guidelines, we will start taking enforcement actions in 2021. ACM welcomes any indications and reports about problems that are covered in the guidelines, for example about misleading designs of websites, and about paid rankings that do not meet the requirements as set out in the Guidelines.

Keeping a close watch on algorithms

Algorithms play an increasingly larger role in the way businesses offer their services. ACM continues to invest in its oversight of algorithms. We launched a trial to see how we can monitor algorithms used by market participants. This experience helps ACM design its oversight of algorithms in practice, and it helps us in informing market participants about what they can expect if ACM checks their algorithms.

Investigation into access of payment apps to NFC chips

We launched an investigation into the access of payment apps to the so-called near field communication (NFC) chips found in mobile phones. NFC technology offers the ability to make contactless payments in brick-and-mortar stores using your smartphone. Some smartphones will deny payment apps other than those of their manufacturers access to the NFC chip. ACM wishes to find out whether the rules have been violated, whether innovation with regard to payment apps has been restricted, and whether the freedom of choice of consumers and businesses has been restricted.

Sector inquiry into IT systems in the health care sector

In 2021, ACM publishes its sector inquiry into digital information systems of hospitals. These information systems play an important role in innovation in the health care sector, and also with regard to the proper exchange of information. With the sector inquiry, ACM will get a better picture of potential market problems that are associated with digital information systems of hospitals.

Completing an investigation into terms and conditions of app stores

App stores are a crucial link in many digital business chains. Businesses must have access to app stores in order to reach their consumers through apps. The terms and conditions that providers of app stores use thus have an effect on the innovation and functioning of many digital markets. In 2021, ACM will complete an investigation into the terms and conditions used by one of those providers of app stores.

Study into apps for public transportation

ACM will complete a study into online platforms that allow travelers to plan, book, and pay for trips from doorstep to destination. These so-called MaaS-services (Mobility as a Service) are expected to stimulate the use of public transportation as well as, for example, the use of bike-sharing programs, and to lower people’s dependency on their own cars. In that way, MaaS contributes to sustainability. It is important that all providers (both large and small, new and existing) get the opportunity to offer innovative mobility services. We want to identify what potential obstacles the public-transportation market is facing that are limiting the growth of this market.

Share your ideas with ACM

ACM wishes to ensure that markets function well for people and businesses. We invite everyone to share their ideas about the implementation of the ACM Agenda. Do you have any concrete tip-offs about a specific market that is not functioning properly, for example, because of unfair competition or misleading practices? Or do you have any suggestions for investigations related to our Agenda topics? If so, we would like to hear from you. You can share your knowledge, experiences and tip-offs with us via our social-media channels on LinkedIn , Twitter  and Facebook  or by sending an email to info@acm.nl.

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