On 5 July at noon, the European Parliament, convened in plenary in Strasburg, adopted the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), respectively with 539 votes in favour, 54 against and 30 abstentions, and 588 votes in favour, 11 against, 31 abstentions. This landslide approval marks the end of first reading by the European Parliament and opens the way for the Member States and the Commission to take up their roles in the implementation process.
The DSA aims to set an ambitious framework to guarantee a safe and trustworthy online environment for consumers, mainly by introducing new obligations for digital service providers. Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs), designated as “online platforms which reach a number of average monthly active recipients of the service in the Union equal to or higher than 45 million”, will have to comply with stricter rules, enforced by the Commission. However, concerns remains on proposed definition of a “recipient of the service” and the suggested, shorter timeline for the implementation of the rules for VLOPs (seven months instead of 15 months for other players).
In the press conference following the adoption of the two digital files, several questions were asked with regards to the enforcement of the new rules. To mitigate doubts about the Commission’s resources to implement the DSA, lead MEP for DSA Christel Schaldemose (S&D, Denmark) underlined that the Parliament welcomed funding alternatives, referring in particular to the supervisory fee. More concretely, Schaldemose mentioned that the Commission suggested that 70 experts would be hired to ensure proper enforcement. Andreas Schwab (EPP, Germany), Rapporteur on DMA, was adamant that more personnel was to be recruited, since the Commission would be the sole enforcer under the DMA. He reminded that he co-drafted a letter pleading the relevant Commission’s DGs to beef up their staff. He estimated that each gatekeeper would need ten members of staff with different profiles and expertise, so that its suggestion to hire 150 new people was already an understatement.
Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, also tackled enforcement in a statement published shortly after the vote in the European Parliament’s plenary. In it, he reminded that a vast variety of actors will be involved, to different degrees, in the enforcement structure of the rulebook. The Commission will oversee gatekeepers (whose definition is also based, among others, on the number of active recipients) under the DMA, and, to this end, it will be endowed with wide-ranging powers to tackle every step of the enforcement from the designation phase to the issuing of sanctions.
Within the Commission, the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT) will create teams according to thematic fields to better tackle the challenges of different natures posed by actors of the platform economy (e.g., a societal issues team to work on risk assessments and audits). Both DG CNECT and DG for Competition, together with other services, are expected to build up expertise in data science and algorithms, by reorganising the staff and preparing for new recruitments.
As the voice of the digital commerce sector in Europe, Ecommerce Europe is closely looking at how to ensure legal certainty for businesses and to facilitate businesses’ compliance with the rules. The new rulebook heavily relies on extensive obligations for economic actors, which requires a strong enforcement structure capable of laying down clear rules while engaging with stakeholders.
The Commission is expected to lay the groundwork for the designation process of gatekeepers and VLOPs shortly, while the Council will need to sign off both texts in the coming weeks, after which the DSA and DMA will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and become applicable 20 days after.
Ecommerce Europe will continue to support the work undertaken by the Commission and Member States on a successful delivery and implementation of the DSA.