EU to pursue checks on web platform deals with businesses

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[May 25, 2016]  By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will check on whether it should do more to curb possible unfair practices in the terms of use set by web platforms such as Google, Amazon and Apple Inc's App Store.

The Commission also published proposals on Wednesday to make online shopping across borders easier.

Presenting the conclusions of a year-long inquiry into online platforms such as Facebook, Google and eBay, the European Union executive ruled out a single law for them but said it would target specific problems in areas such as copyright and telecoms.

The Commission proposed changes to the bloc's broadcasting rules which will oblige providers of online video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon to devote at least a fifth of their catalogue to European works.

European films already account for 21 percent of Netflix's catalogue.

EU member states will also have the option of requiring streaming services not based in that country but targeting their audience to contribute financially to the production of European works.

"I want online platforms and the audiovisual and creative sectors to be power houses in the digital economy, not weigh them down with unnecessary rules," said Andrus Ansip, EU Commission Vice-President who is in charge of Brussels' strategy to create a single market in the digital world.

The Society of Audiovisual Authors welcomed the review of European broadcasting rules, although it said the 20 percent quota is not enough.

Netflix said it had committed hundreds of millions of euros to European productions so far. Its first original European series, Marseille, premiered in May.

"We appreciate the Commission's objective to have European production flourish. However the proposed measures won't actually achieve that," said Joris Evers, a Netflix spokesman.


Online platforms - largely U.S. tech companies - have come under increased scrutiny in the 28-nation bloc for their business practices as well as handling of swathes of data.

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The Commission said its inquiry highlighted problems in online shopping in relations between businesses and platforms, including the imposition of unfair conditions, refusal of access to markets and important business data and the promotion of the platform's own service to the disadvantage of competitors.

The EU executive will examine the allegations and decide if action is needed next year.

Separately, the Commission has charged Google with abusing its dominance to promote its shopping service over rival services.

The Commission said it will look at deregulating telecoms companies where they face competition from similar services, such as Microsoft's Skype or Facebook's WhatsApp.

Telecoms firms have long complained about tech firms who can provide messaging or calling services without being subject to the same rules.

A reform of the bloc's copyright rules expected after the summer will address concerns in the music industry that platforms such as YouTube do not pay artists enough when their content is uploaded.

The new broadcasting rules will become law when approved by the European Parliament and national governments.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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