Online Platforms

Different approaches for the definition “online platforms”

  • Marketplaces
    Digital online platforms that enable the selling consumer and/or business to offer, advertise and communicate on the sale of their products, services and/or digital content under their own name, risk and liability, directly to other consumers or traders who are interested in buying these products, services and/or digital content (for instance, eBay, DaWanda, Etsy, Amazon, Allegro).
  • Shopping malls
    Digital online platforms that offer businesses the opportunity to present and operate their online shop on the platform (for instance, Rakuten and Bol.com).
  • Intermediaries / brokers
    Digital online platforms that offer – as a basic service – to bring together sellers and buyers / offer and demand of products, services and digital content with the aim to conclude a sales contract between the seller and the buyer
  • Search engines
    Digital online platforms that offer as a main service to interested parties, being consumers or professionals, the possibility to search for and find products, services and/or digital content of different sellers or providers (for instance, Google, EasyTerra and Cheaptickets.nl)
  • Comparing tools
    Digital online platforms that offer – as a main service to interested parties, being consumer or professional – the possibility to compare products, services and/or digital content of different sellers on one or more specific setting such as price, quality, period, features or user reviews.
Variety and complexity of different online platform services ask for a differentiated and vertical approach

Recognizing five different types of online platform services, however, does not mean that an online platform only offers one type of service. Nowadays practice shows that all combinations of different service types are offered or are being developed. All types of platform services have in common that they are accessible online irrespective of the device used (for instance, desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet or other Internet-connected devices) and have as a final aim to bring together sellers and buyers to come to sales contracts on products, services and/or digital content.

The legal character of online platforms and contractual relations

The legal character of online platforms is that of a service enabling, on the one hand, parties to offer and sell their products, services and/or digital content service to consumers and businesses and, on the other hand, a service to consumers and traders to search, orientate, compare and eventually conclude a sales contract with their preferred supplier. The service as such is a service of the information society. The online platform service itself is based on a contractual relation between, on the one hand, the consumer (B2C) or trader (B2B) – searching, orientating and comparing offers and the marketplace offering this platform service to them as potential buyers – and, on the other hand, consumers (B2C) or traders (B2B)
wanting to sell products, services and/or digital content and the online platform offering this platform service to them as potential sellers

Consumer protection on online platforms and existing legal framework

Consumer protection in the B2C contractual relations regarding online platforms starts with easily accessible and transparent information, to be
provided by the marketplace or the selling trader in a practical and effective way avoiding information overload, on the identity of the marketplace and the trader involved, the contractual relation and contract terms, the total price to be paid, delivery and territorial restrictions for delivery, withdrawal right, rights and remedies the consumer is entitled to in case of non-conformity, customer service and complaints handling, ADR and applicable law.

Source: European Commission