EU’s Digital Services Act worries e-commerce associations
On July 5, the European Parliament approved the new Digital Services Act (DSA). The DSA aims to fight online hate and misinformation, but it also provides a framework for e-tailers to counter the circulation of counterfeit and dangerous goods. The DSA’s text has been welcomed by European e-commerce associations, which nevertheless are concerned about the very tight deadline for its implementation.
Notably, the DSA also introduces new obligations for e-marketplaces operating in Europe regarding the identification and traceability of vendors and products. The new rules require pre-contractual and product safety information, traceability of third-party vendors, and random checks to be carried out to ensure product compliance with EU rules.
The text, however, maintains the principle that there is “no-obligation” for e-marketplaces to monitor products. A principle of limited liability which had been called into question during the parliamentary debate.
However, while the DSA has been welcomed by e-commerce associations, its implementation timetable causes great concern.
“Very large online platforms,” (VLOPs, as defined by the EU) have seven months to implement the new rules, while online commercial intermediaries have 15 months. A point that Ecommerce Europe, the European association of online retailers, had highlighted as a possible pitfall as early as June 17.
“We applaud the European institutions for their rapid work (…) and we believe that an updated and better harmonised framework will help reduce illegal online content,” said Ecommerce Europe, adding that “at the same time, we recognise that the text has changed considerably since the initial proposal presented by the Commission, and that many new obligations have been added. Thus, following the formal adoption of the DSA, a huge task will be incumbent on companies to adapt their operations. We urge the Commission and [the EU’s] member states to facilitate a smooth implementation by giving sufficient time, and providing clarity on certain key concepts and rules.”
Ecommerce Europe also emphasised how deadline issues will soon pose practical problems. The VLOPs’ implementation of the DSA will be led by ‘Digital Service Coordinators’ (DSCs), who will be notably in charge of defining out-of-court settlement services, and of framing the access modes to website data. “But [DSCs] will not be appointed in time, and will therefore not be able to perform these functions quickly,” said Ecommerce Europe.
In France, the national e-commerce federation (FEVAD) has welcomed the adoption of DSA, but also highlighted the implementation deadline issue, underlining the need for a concerted “and uniform” deployment across the EU, in order “to ensure an equivalent level of protection for French consumers, and to protect the competitiveness of French marketplaces.”