Francis Zammit Dimech | Delivering for businesses and consumers

I remain committed to strengthen the digital single market to open up digital opportunities for people and business and to strengthen the digital economy

Francis Zammit Dimech is a Nationalist MEP

The use of online platforms, price comparison websites and search engines in our daily life has considerably increased as they help us to buy goods and services, or book the next holiday accommodation in a simple and fast way. Such platforms not only enable consumers to find information online in an easy way, with more choices of goods making it easier to identify best value deals but have also facilitated the creation of new markets and commercial opportunities for businesses including those considered to be small or micro in dimension.

The rapidly growing electronic market in Malta is playing an important role in the way that people do business, communicate and purchase their goods and services through electronic means. According to the Chamber of Commerce more than 175,200 (64.5%) people have been trading electronically for clothes, sports goods, holiday accommodation and travel arrangements.

While the use of online platforms is becoming a common practice among Maltese and Gozitan citizens, they are also crucial for small and medium business users (SMEs) because their business depends on online platforms and search engines, which they use in order to reach customers. It is worth emphasising that the SMEs sector is very significant in Malta, since they represent a big chunk of the overall enterprise market share. There are various arguments that must be tackled including how to ensure that SMEs are encouraged to continue participating actively in the online platform environments, guaranteeing high visibility to their consumers. Furthermore, what can we do to promote the consumer’s confidence in these platforms, by ensuring that online platforms are managed in a safe, fair and transparent manner?

At the European Parliament I have worked to tackle these issues by negotiating a new law that regulates online platforms. As the rapporteur of the regulation on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online services in the Committee on Legal Affairs, I have ensured that this new law benefits both SMEs and consumers. Businesses, as all other economic players, should be protected from big giants when using online platforms. For example, this regulation will ensure transparency with regard to ranking of goods and services in search results triggered by consumers ensuring there is no abuse of power by platforms or unfair competition. Furthermore, we have identified unfair trading practices which will no longer be allowed and cannot be made use of  by platforms when dealing with business users. This regulation is also crucial for the hospitality sector as data collected through platforms as a result of commercial activity of a business user is to be made available to the respective business. This will ensure a better service and facilitate targeted marketing.

Technology, innovation and online platforms are surely bringing more competition, private investment and job creation. Over the past years, the growth in sectors like hospitality and tourism in Malta, is not only positively impacting overall economic growth and job creation, but it is moreover necessitating the protection of the interest of businesses that are active in these sectors, and meeting the customer’s information needs. This is what I have sought to achieve through this regulation. Throughout the twenty months that I have served as your representative within the European Parliament I worked closely with the Malta Business Bureau (MBB). Recently we met again to discuss their proposals ahead of the forthcoming elections. Among the main issues MBB spoke about, is the need to implement policies that create a fair and competitive business environment, the facilitation of digital transformation and continuous investment in innovation.

I remain committed to strengthen the digital single market to open up digital opportunities for people and business and to strengthen the digital economy. This is why in our manifesto we are proposing to tackle unfair competition faced by our SMEs and why we want to attract new economic sectors that offer good jobs such as those in the digital sector. We have achieved much with this regulation, through halting geo-blocking (whereby one used to be blocked from shopping from other member states) but the digital single market is still a case of ‘works in progress’ and is it up to us to ensure that all digital barriers are overcome to truly have a fair and well regulated free market online.

While I keep the goals and ambitions of businesses and citizens close to my heart, I commit to keep working to bring about the full scope of the European Union’s digital ambitions, and I hope to count on your support to help me continue to make progress in this area. Much more needs to be done and I am determined to keep working on these issues if the people of Malta provide me with another mandate in the European Parliament.

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