Online platforms: Commission publishes ranking guidelines to increase transparency of online search results

Today, the Commission is publishing guidelines for online platforms on how to improve the transparency of their ranking parameters. Algorithmic ranking determines visibility of a certain page among search results, which has a crucial impact to the success of businesses – especially as the current pandemic has moved more business activities online. The guidelines complement the ranking transparency requirements under the EU Platform-to-Business Regulation  (P2B) and are the first of their kind globally. Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “These guidelines set the standard for algorithmic ranking transparency and will increase fairness in the online platform economy, which drives innovation and welfare for millions of Europeans. Transparency is the European way to go, and we are putting the final touch to rules for all digital services to cooperate with regulators and for the biggest platforms to provide more information on the way their algorithms work.” Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, added: “Since businesses increasingly depend on digital solutions to reach consumers, their position in online search results can mean make it or break it. These guidelines will increase ranking transparency and allow businesses to compete fairly online in the EU Single Market. The same principles will underpin the forthcoming Digital Markets Act, which will prevent illegal behaviour before it even takes place.” The guidelines address the main requirements for online platforms identified in the P2B Regulation: from the need to identify key algorithmic parameters behind ranking to their communication to businesses. They will help online platforms make the right information available to businesses so they can consider how best to increase and manage their online visibility, enabling consumers to ultimately receive the highest quality goods and services. They will also provide valuable support for the adequate and effective enforcement of the transparency requirement to ensure online platforms are acting fairly in their ranking practices. These guidelines follow a set of resources, including a question and answers document and a video, published in July by the Commission to help traders, online platforms and search engines when implementing the new rules. More information is available here.