The European Commission is at work on a new proposal that aims to shape how online platforms — spanning eCommerce and mobile apps — rank search results.
The draft regulation, as quoted by Reuters, targets what might be seen as harmful trading practices and states that “online intermediation services can hold superior bargaining power over their business users, enabling them to behave unilaterally in a way that is capable of harming the businesses using them.”
The proposal would mandate tech firms such as eBay to disclose how they determine rankings and how algorithms are deployed, described generally (the algorithms themselves will not be explicitly disclosed). Any changes in terms and conditions must be announced 15 days prior to implementation, and the smaller firms must be given “individualized” descriptions of reasons for suspension or delisting.
The proposal is set to be published next month and then must be approved by the European Parliament and by national governments, said Reuters.
As has been noted, tech companies have become more highly regulated in Europe, as regulators focus on user data, tax payments and other business processes. By way of example, a nearly $3 billion fine was levied on Google for boosting its own shopping services over those operated by rivals.
The ruling came at the end of a seven-year investigation of Google’s parent company Alphabet’s business practices, urged on by the complaints of several small shopping sites — and a series of large players that joined them — demanding Google either be sanctioned or perhaps even broken up for the ways it used search to unfairly tip the market toward itself.