Study on 'Support to the Observatory for the Online Platform Economy' Analytical paper #8

Developments concerning B2B platforms and emerging cloud services

Published in: Observatory on the Online Platform Economy website (March 2021)

by Advait Deshpande, Cagla Stevenson, Mann Virdee, Salil Gunashekar

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The influence of the economic and social activity facilitated by online platforms, the online platform economy, has grown significantly. The products and services offered by online platforms have scaled rapidly to become a core part of modern-day societies. Regulatory authorities have increasingly questioned the concentration of market power in the hands of a small number of online platforms, and a small group of online platforms is considered to hold an influential position, narrowing market access to potential competitors and acting as a 'gatekeeper'. With regard to issues of contestability and fairness within the online platform economy, consumer-facing (B2C) platforms have received a significant amount of attention; however, developments within the (business-facing) B2B platform space remain underexplored. Lack of trust in platforms is seen to have hampered the initial emergence of B2B markets. Business users, particularly SMEs, may be concerned over the trading practices of such platforms.

The European Commission has identified policy options, such as the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act, to ensure that online platform ecosystems remain fair and contestable. In particular, B2B platform services, such a cloud services and the Industrial Internet of Things play an important role in shaping the online platform ecosystem. The aim of this analytical paper is to understand developments concerning B2B platforms, and the emerging issues that they may face and that they give rise to.

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