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Digital Single Market: European Commission warned not to over-regulate online platforms

Ministers from 11 EU member states warn European Commission off over-regulating use of online platforms during the creation of the Digital Single Market

The UK has joined forces with 10 EU member states to warn the European Commission (EC) of the economic dangers of over-regulating the use of online platforms during the delivery of its Digital Single Market strategy.

The group have outlined their misgivings in a letter, co-signed by ministerial representatives from the UK, Czech Republic, Poland, Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria.

In the missive, the parties air concerns about how regulating the use of online platforms – such as search engines, social media sites, app stores and media sharing sites – could hamper long-term economic growth in Europe.

As such, the group advises the EC to only consider rolling out new regulations governing the use of these platforms where there is “clear and compelling evidence of need”.

“If at all possible, we should avoid introducing legislation that might act as a barrier to the development of digital business models and create obstacles to entry and growth in the European Digital Market,” the letter states.

“Such legislation might have an unintentionally damaging effect on the innovation, competitiveness and economic growth of the European digital industries.

“It would not be in the interest of European businesses or consumers and would put us at a disadvantage in relation to global competition,” the document adds.

Focus on existing laws

The letter also makes the case for allowing platform providers to self-regulate, and to ensure the EC considers the scope and coverage of existing regulatory frameworks before considering introducing further laws.

“Platforms must operate in the law. We should look to the existing regulatory framework to solve any concerns about the way platforms operate, whenever this is possible,” the letter states.

“Existing legislative and non-legislative instruments, including data protection law, competition law and consumer law, already apply to platforms and can be used to regulate them.

“We should focus on implementing existing laws effectively and consistently, rather than adding to the burden of regulation on businesses,” it adds.

Drivers of innovation

The letter is intended as a response to the EC’s ongoing consultations around how best to set about delivering on its Digital Single Market vision before the end of 2016.

The Digital Single Market initiative is geared towards creating a single marketplace for digital services in the EU, and has seen the commission outline 16 areas that need to be addressed as part of this.

One of these areas includes ascertaining what role online platforms will play in Digital Single Market’s future.

On this topic, the letter talks up the important role they play in helping companies expand their geographical reach into new markets for a relatively low cost, while providing users with easy access to information about the services they may not come across otherwise.

“It is thus important that platforms are allowed to continue to be the drivers of innovation and to meet customer demand,” the letter continues.

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