In recent years, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce supported by online marketplaces has developed significantly. In order to gain an understanding of the operation model of digital platforms, as well as to identify possible issues that could negatively affect competition, Latvian and Lithuanian competition authorities have launched a parallel monitoring of online marketplaces to assess the impact of e-commerce development in the Baltic region.
Online marketplaces provide undertakings with access to new sale channels, thus fostering business development, trade, and innovation, which can also improve consumer choice and well-being.
Global online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Booking.com have been studied on several occasions. Nevertheless, smaller platforms that operate locally, e.g. in the Baltics, have not been studied so far. However, given the growing popularity of digital platforms among consumers, the Latvian and Lithuanian competition authorities want to address market challenges both at the local and cross-border levels. The findings of the market surveillance are expected to provide the competition authorities with a better understanding of the operation of digital platforms. Also, such information will facilitate to assess the performance of the platforms from competition law perspective.
Juris Gaiķis, Chairman of the Competition Council of Latvia: “One of the priorities of the Latvian Competition Council's Operational Strategy for 2020-2022 is the monitoring of digital markets in which rapid development or innovations are taking place. However, given the limited resources available to the Competition Council and the importance of the rapidly evolving and growing digital markets, which often extend beyond national borders, joint cross-border cooperation, and joint forces with neighbours is an essential precondition for promoting fair competition so far in not so well-known markets not only in the territory of their country, but at the same time in the entire Baltic region.”
Šarūnas Kesarauskas, Chairman of the Competition Council of Lithuania: “Monitoring of online marketplaces will give a better understanding of the operation of this trade channel, its accessibility and spread of algorithms, as well as help to identify the factors that potentially restrict effective competition. Business surveys conducted in Lithuania and Latvia will allow us to compare the principles of operation of online marketplaces in both countries and possibly identify common problems.”
Competition authorities plan to survey online marketplaces operating in Latvia and Lithuania, which provide, for example, food deliveries, sale of various consumer goods, gift vouchers and other services to consumers to assess their cooperation with undertakings using their services. The authorities will also survey undertakings that use these online marketplaces to reach their consumers.
Following the surveys, the competition authorities plan to publish a report with the findings.