International – European Commission launches a Sector Inquiry into the Consumer Internet of Things

The European Commission (Commission) has launched a sector inquiry into the market for consumer products and services linked to the Internet of Things (IoT). This marks the start of an intensive information gathering process in which hundreds of companies will be asked for information about the products they sell, how data is collected/used/monetized and the interoperability of devices. The Commission hopes the inquiry will identify potential problems in this market so that steps can be taken to maximise the number of companies able to compete in this space. At the same time, the Commission wants to detect and stop any competition law infringements. Information gathered in the inquiry will also be useful to the Commission’s parallel consultations on introducing new information gathering powers and regulation in this market.

Recommended actions •Questionnaires are being sent out to businesses. Companies are advised to check generic mailboxes plus the mailboxes of senior management to find their questionnaire now to ensure they have the fullest amount of time possible to respond.

•Careful strategic consideration will be required around the response to questionnaires received in light of the various initiatives by the Commission in this area.

•Taking into account past sector inquiries (for example, in pharmaceuticals) companies should prepare for competition law enforcement in this area even prior to the inquiry ending, as the Commission gathers information and learns more about this sector.

•Competition law enforcement could start with a dawn raid (unannounced inspection) so businesses should make sure their internal processes are up to date and ready to handle a surprise Commission visit.

Please see the full alert here for a more detailed summary of what this means for TMT businesses and our analysis of the wider policy objectives.

For more information, please contact Paul Johnson, Kurt Haegeman, Samantha Mobley, Nicolas Kredel or Laura Philippou.

International – New EU rules for Platforms as the P2B Regulation comes into effect

On 20 June 2019, the European Parliament and the Council approved Regulation EU 2019/1150 on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services (the so-called Platform-to-Business Regulation — P2B Regulation).

The P2B Regulation — which has direct effect on EU Member States from 12 July 2020 — is part of the European Digital Single Market strategy, and its purpose is to ensure that business users of online intermediation services and corporate website users which interact with online search engines may operate in a transparent, fair, predictable and effective business context.

Which platforms does the P2B Regulation apply to?

The P2B Regulation applies to online search engines and platforms providing “online intermediation services” facilitating contacts and the initiation of transactions between consumers and business users offering their products and services on the market (i.e., third-party sellers’ marketplaces, stores of software applications, social media used for business purposes and online tools for price comparison — “Platforms”).

The P2B Regulation also applies to Platforms and online search engines that have their place of establishment or residence outside the EU, to the extent that through those online intermediation services or online search engines they offer goods or services to consumers located in the EU.

The P2B Regulation does not apply to online payment services, online advertising tools, SEO (search engine optimization) services and services that connect hardware devices and software applications without intervening in the transaction between the business user and the consumer. Furthermore, the P2B Regulation does not apply to online resellers that sell their products to consumers directly and not through the Platforms.

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