New regulations online platform

Do you run an online platform or do you want to set up a new online platform? From May 2022 you will have to deal with an information obligation and new rules. For reviews, prices, offers and "free" digital services, among other things. Read the 6 changes in advance and how to prepare for them with your online platform.

Act proposal for online platforms

The rules for online platforms are changing due to new European directives to protect consumers. Thanks to this change, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate has drafted a bill. This will apply to online platforms. This proposal must be transposed into the Dutch law on 28 November of this year. The law is expected to enter into force on May 28, 2022.

Guideline

Lawyer and policy advisor Vincent Romviel of Thuiswinkel.org is pleased with the new guideline. The rules from the directive are in line with new digital developments and ensure equal rules for entrepreneurs on the European market. They also protect consumers better and strengthen consumer confidence in buying online.

Online platform regulation changes

There is no need to wait until May 2022. The changes to comply with the upcoming regulations are already known. Setting up your online platform under the new rules is a good idea. This distinguishes you from competitors in a positive way. Ultimately, your customers will benefit from the new rules because they know more about your way of working.

Reviews on online platforms

Do you post reviews and ratings on your online platform? Then you must state the following from 28-05-22:

  • The way you verify that reviews are from customers who actually bought and used this item. You do this, for example, by looking for suspicious patterns, such as frequent short-term reviews for a certain product or the presence of the same texts for other products.
  • Processing of both positive and negative product reviews.
  • Presence of sponsorship or paid reviews.

It is also prohibited on social networks to post fake consumer reviews. Think of placing likes or having them placed and displaying them.

Consumers rely on opinions and recommendations. With this broader disclosure requirement, customers can better and more honestly assess whether reviews are genuine and make an informed decision whether or not to buy.

Romviel: "Entrepreneurs who are affiliated with rating agencies such as Kiyoh or Trustmaster, for example, comply with their obligation to provide information about reviews by indicating on their website how the reviews are handled. If you are not affiliated with parties such as Kiyoh or Trustmaster, you must indicate this yourself. and comply. We believe the time and cost involved will not be too much."

Personalization online platform

Do you want to offer your customers a personalised range of goods or services? Think of an automatic offer based on recent searches, purchase history, place of residence or other characteristics of customers you know. It is then mandatory to inform your customers about this before they buy something. A pop-up or a message on the checkout page is obvious for this.

The customer can choose to check whether your offer is really attractive. This allows a customer to search for a provider that does not use this customer data or by comparing prices.

Advertising on online platform

Do you know them? Well-known ways of advertising. Such as great discounts, from amount A now to amount B. Next year you can no longer count on "random" prices for discounts on an online platform. If you're promoting a sale, you must use the lowest price at least 30 days before the sale. As a result, one is forced to advertise fair prices and one cannot first increase the price and then offer a discount.

You are allowed to show a discount compared to a competitor or the suggested retail price of a certain product.

Mining data with an online platform

Do you offer "free" digital services that require consumers to provide their personal information? You will then have to provide more information about how long a customer is linked to the digital service and how the customer can unsubscribe again. In any case, you should be able to cancel 14 days free of charge and without stating reasons. That is the right that consumers will have on your online platform. Will there be cancellation? Then as an online platform owner you must immediately stop the service and delete the customer data.

Obligations for online platform

If you have your own online platform, a customer can purchase a product or service from you. But products or services can also be purchased from entrepreneurs or consumers who offer their products or services on your online platform. The new guidelines require consumers who use your online platform to be notified directly who they are dealing with. Indicate whether it concerns an entrepreneur or a consumer and which conditions apply to the agreement.

Make this information visible on your checkout page. Hiding this information in the general terms and conditions of your online platform is no longer allowed, for example.

As an online platform holder, you have an obligation to provide information and also an obligation to investigate. As an online platform, you must provide information in advance about the legal status (entrepreneur or private individual) of the sellers and the terms and conditions of those who sell services or goods through the platform.

If products or services are offered by others via your online platform, you are an online platform holder and the above rules apply.

Search results on online platform

Do you offer online search functions? Think of an online platform that compares energy providers, travel, hotels or other products or services. In that case, too, you will have to deal with an extensive information obligation. You need to make clear to customers in advance which factors determine the results of a search. You do not have to disclose your algorithms, but you do have to indicate on what basis the search results are generated. For example, if companies pay for a higher position in the search results, you have to be honest about that. You provide this information from the page where your search results are shown, regardless of whether the visitor buys something or not.

Online platform compliance

Do you have an online platform? The ACM and AFM can impose fines or give violators a term within which they must resolve the incorrect situation. The fines can amount to 4% of the annual turnover of an online platform or to a maximum fine of 2 million euros. If a violation occurs more often, the percentage can even rise to 10% of the annual turnover of the online platform.

If your online platform does not comply with the new regulations, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) and the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) consider it unfair business. This will be enforced. A distinction is made in the violation by means of the following aspects: nature, extent, seriousness, duration and frequency. Pay attention as an online platform holder! ACM and AFM have the option of handing out fines. They can also choose to give your online platform a period in which the incorrect situation must be resolved.

“We expect that the enforcement of the new rules by ACM and AFM will largely take place on the basis of signals from customers,” says Romviel.