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ACM publishes draft guidelines regarding the rules for online platforms and search engines

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has published draft guidelines in which ACM explains how it interprets the transparency rules of the Platform-to-Business Regulation. The draft guidelines explain what information providers of online platforms and online search engines must provide to businesses that offer goods or services using such platforms and search engines. Market participants have until October 20, 2022, to submit their opinions about the guidelines.

Since 2020, providers of online platforms and online search engines must comply with the Platform-to-Business Regulation (also called the P2B Regulation). Enforcement of compliance with the rules can currently be achieved by going to the civil courts. However, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK) is drafting a bill in which ACM is designated as regulator. In preparation for that designation, ACM recently conducted a market survey. This study showed that market participants are not always sure how to interpret the rules. In order to shed light on how to interpret the rules and to promote proper compliance with the rules, ACM has published the ‘Guidelines for promoting a transparent and fair online platform economy for undertakings’.

‘These guidelines explain to platform companies what information they must provide so that their business users know what to expect from the platform. In that way, businesses can decide whether and, if so, how they want to use the platform’, explains Manon Leijten, Member of the Board of ACM. ‘We also published an easy-to-understand summary of the most important rules. By providing as much clarity as possible, small businesses might discover that they have more rights than they previously thought’.

In easy-to-understand language

The draft guidelines concern the rules about which, on the basis of the market survey, there was the most uncertainty. For example, the guidelines explain, among other rules, the rules stipulating that the general terms and conditions of online platforms for businesses must be written in plain and easy-to-understand language, and that they must be easily available. In addition, in their general terms and conditions, online platforms must be transparent about how the products on the online platform are ranked. Furthermore, providers of online platforms or online search engines must be transparent about how and why they treat businesses unequally in comparison with themselves.

Market participants have four weeks to submit their opinions on the draft version of the guidelines. ACM will incorporate the responses in the final version of the guidelines, which is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2023.

The P2B Regulation is one of the first steps to ensure a level playing field in Europe for business users in online markets. This will be followed by a comprehensive package of additional EU legislation targeting the digital economy, including the Digital Markets Act, the Digital Services Act, and the Data Act.

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