Ecosystem analysis: FAS developed five principles for the operation of digital platforms

Ecosystem analysis: FAS developed five principles for the operation of digital platforms

How the reform will affect the future development of online giants.

Ecosystem analysis: FAS developed five principles for the operation of digital platforms

The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has developed a draft of principles of interaction on the digital market, which players must follow in order to avoid unfair practices. Among them are platform transparency and service provider neutrality. The rules were created on the basis of violations of antimonopoly legislation and the practice of analysing cases and applications of citizens and legal entities already recorded by the FAS. Major players supported the antitrust authority's approach, noting that it is based on the self-regulation of ecosystems. The FAS will be guided by the developed set of rules in case of gaps in the legislation, experts explained.

Principled approach

The Expert Council under the FAS, which includes representatives of the Service and market participants, in August developed a draft of basic principles of interaction on digital markets. This was reported to Izvestia in the Antimonopoly Service. These principles include:

·      transparency of digital platforms (in particular, free access to information on how search results are ranked);

·      neutral attitude towards all parties on the market (the FAS has already issued a warning to Microsoft because of the illegal provision of advantages to its own anti-virus software);

·      ensuring the independence of platform users when interacting with them (for example, was found to be a violator due to abuse of a dominant position to impose unfavourable terms of contracts on hotels);

·      avoidance of expansive and ambiguous language in the operation of digital platforms (a case was also brought against Google about opaque rules in the YouTube user agreement, allowing you to block and delete accounts without warning);

·      ensuring the rights of platform users, including by considering their requests and providing them with full answers.

The set of rules of conduct for players in digital markets was developed to avoid the main risks and unfair practices typical for the industry, stated Elena Zayeva, Head of the Communications and Information Technology Regulation Department of the FAS. According to her, the basic principles, on the one hand, will contribute to the formation of open, transparent, non-discriminatory conditions for business, and on the other, ensure the implementation of the constitutional rights of citizens, in particular the freedom to receive and propagate information and privacy.

In the course of further development of the project, it is planned to work out a mechanism for resolving disputes arising from non-compliance with the designated basic principles.

Yandex, Avito and AliExpress told Izvestia that they participated in the discussion of the basic principles of the FAS and support them. A balanced approach of the service, based on self-regulation of online platforms, will help to boost the competition, improve user experience and create conditions for the development of small and medium-sized businesses, Yandex expects. Ozon reported that they also conceptually support the idea of self-regulation and VTB - that they advocate open and clear rules for the interaction of suppliers with ecosystems.

A step towards self-regulation

Avito believes that the developed principles will be used by the FAS when considering cases of violation of antimonopoly legislation, but the purpose of creating the document is rather preventive - it should reduce the number of cases.

- Currently e-commerce is at an early stage of development - it is important to avoid harsh regulatory norms, to give the industry an opportunity to self-regulate. AliExpress Russia also supported the regulator's proposal to organize a meeting of small and medium-sized businesses with representatives of the expert council in order to discuss in detail complaints and dissatisfaction with the work of marketplaces, as well as to get an objective picture of the business and develop more detailed and practical principles of work, - stated the vice-president for Government Relations of the company Sergey Lebedev.

Ecosystems and digital platforms are large-scale market members that play the role of drivers of economic growth, the Ministry of Economics told Izvestia, stressing that antitrust regulation is one of the most effective ways to establish competition rules for them. The department believes that considering the specifics, it will be necessary to adapt the legislation to the new conditions of the digital economy.

In ANO Digital Economy Izvestia was told that market players are concerned about antimonopoly regulation of ecosystems, which, among other things, is discussed at round tables in the organization. In addition, businesses are concerned with competing with international ecosystems, supporting entrepreneurship, and limited supplier choices.

Any set of principles creates the foundation for the implementation of activities in a specific area, which the service will be guided by, in particular, with gaps in regulation, noted Natalya Skryabina, a member of the Russian Bar Association. She added that for the effectiveness of this mechanism, normative legal acts that clarify the content of the principles are still required. The lawyer gave an example: in accordance with another set of rules, the Concept for the Implementation of Tariff Formation Mechanisms, the FAS has already prepared a corresponding draft government decree.

Aside from the basic principles, the antimonopoly service has developed the so-called "fifth antimonopoly package" dedicated to the regulation of digital markets and platforms, Anton Lomtev, a lawyer at SK Vertical, recalled: after its adoption, it will be possible to compare how the established rules are reflected in the law and, accordingly, how the service will follow them. From a legal point of view, the emergence of the "basic principles" of digital platforms means that the antimonopoly authority in its practice will have to rely on them, using them as "markers" that set the vectors of decision-making, the expert added.

The concept proposed by the FAS corresponds to the draft of the Digital Services Act (being developed in the EU): the principles are aimed at aligning the positions of the service and the user, said Oleg Blinov, a teacher at the Moscow Digital School. For example, now a client can be blocked without explanation when the service unilaterally decided not to have a relationship with him, and regulators insist on clarity of the rules of work.

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