Out-Law News Lesedauer: 2 Min.

EU Digital Services Act deadline arrives for online intermediaries

New rules that broaden online intermediaries’ responsibilities for managing illegal and harmful content and set new requirements around how goods and services are sold take effect across EU member states on 17 February.

The Digital Services Act builds on the E-Commerce Directive, which governs what online intermediaries need to do currently when they become aware of the existence of illegal activity on their services, and imposes a new tiered system of regulation – the requirements online intermediary services must meet depends on the type of intermediary service that is provided.

Pinsent Masons has published a guide to help businesses understand the extent to which their services may be regulated under the Digital Services Act – and experts at Pinsent Masons have highlighted that it is not just technology companies whose services could be within scope of the legislation.

Rauer Nils

Dr. Nils Rauer, MJI

Rechtsanwalt, Partner

For example, automotive, finance, logistics, and pharmaceutical companies offering sophisticated online portals for customers and suppliers might qualify as providers of online platform services

The strictest requirements under the Digital Services Act apply to businesses that meet the criteria of ‘very large online platforms’ or ‘very large online search engines’. Those “VLOPs” or “VLOSEs” are subject to extra scrutiny and the rules of the Digital Services Act have already been applying for some time to those businesses – from four months after their designation by the European Commission as VLOPs or VLOSEs in April 2023). Saturday 17 February is when the relevant provisions of the Digital Services Act take effect for other in-scope services, including hosting services, online platform services, and online platform services that allow consumers to conclude distance contracts with traders.

Among other things, the Digital Services Act introduces a new ‘notice and action’ procedure for reporting, and for the potential removal or blocking of access to, content. It also includes provisions aimed at curbing targeted advertising based on the use of individuals’ sensitive personal data. Targeted advertising at children using any of their personal data will be prohibited too. Restrictions on the way platforms can influence user behaviour through the way their interfaces are designed or operate will also apply.

Amsterdam-based Gijs van Mansfeld of Pinsent Masons, an expert in technology law, said: “The European Commission and national regulators have been preparing for a long time for this moment, both by investing in an overall increase of staff to enforce the wide range of provisions of the Digital Services Act and by actively initiating the first proceedings – for example, the Commission has already initiated proceedings against X, formerly Twitter. The Digital Services Act is widely considered a new tool, similar to competition and IP legislation, for regulators to combat unwanted consequences of the digital environment on modern day society – whatever those may be.”

Read more on this topic

Frankfurt-based Nils Rauer of Pinsent Masons, who also specialises in technology law, said: “From 17 February 2024, all provisions of the Digital Services Act will fully apply to the intermediary services captured by the new regulation. The scope of companies that need to take actions from this point is broad. It extends far beyond ‘classic’ online service providers and notably includes companies across all industry sectors. For example, automotive, finance, logistics, and pharmaceutical companies offering sophisticated online portals for customers and suppliers might qualify as providers of online platform services.”

“But the Digital Services Act is not clear enough on which services are in and which are out of scope. So, we have seen companies struggle to determine whether and in which category they fall and which obligations they need to comply. Eventually, it will be for the courts to hand down judgments and to clarify the situation and interpretation of the Digital Services Act provisions.”

We are working towards submitting your application. Thank you for your patience. An unknown error occurred, please input and try again.