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EU’s new ruling on online shopping

EUROPEAN LAWMAKERS TOOK a swing at Amazon, Google, Apple, and other tech giants Thursday, endorsing new rules to crack down on unfair practices that stifle competition by online platforms and app stores. The rules are designed to curb the power of digital platforms by promoting fairness and transparency between the platforms and companies that sell or market through them. They are targeted at search engines, ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon Marketplace and eBay, app stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, social media sites that work with businesses like Facebook Pages and artists’ Instagram accounts, and price-comparison tools such as Skyscanner and Kayak.

Critics are skeptical. They say the rules may have been drafted to curtail the anticompetitive practices of big tech but are worded in a way that lets companies known for abusing their market dominance off scot-free.

The rules would require internet companies to crack open their black boxes to reveal if and how they give preferential treatment to their own products, disclose how search rankings are determined, be more transparent with businesses about policies that affect their ability to sell through the platform, and set up internal services to handle complaints from vendors regarding unfair activity. They would create an EU Observatory of the Online Platform Economy to monitor competition and related trends.