EUTA calls for clear guidelines and a collaborative approach as the DSA starts applying

As the countdown to this weekend progresses, a key moment in Europe will take place: The Digital Services Act (DSA) – Regulation (EU) 2022/2065 – now applies to all providers of online services.

This new EU legislation addresses the challenge of illegal content, products, or services on the Internet, with the objective of ensuring a consistent trustworthy experience online. Essentially the DSA lays the groundwork for how digital services will operate and moderate content transparently in the years to come. Among others, the DSA requires additional safeguard for e-commerce marketplaces to better trace information on business users. 

For this to be successful, there are a few wrinkles that need ironing out. Most national authorities, referred to as Digital Service Coordinators (DSCs), along with many companies, are working diligently to ensure everything is in place by the 17th of February 2024. Yet, the path forward is not without its challenges.

One notable challenge stems from the ambiguity of certain provisions within the legislation, leaving room for various (including excessive) interpretations. This uncertainty presents a significant burden for companies, particularly European tech companies, as they allocate major resources to comply without a guarantee that what they are building will meet legal requirements. This is particularly true for obligations in the DSA that are subject to secondary legislation or further guidance from the regulator that is not yet available. 

Additionally, the delay in appointing DSCs in several Member States hampers companies’ ability to fulfil their requirements by the 17th of February. European companies cannot fulfil all the DSA requirements if the structure and processes that DSCs have to put in place are not there (e.g. trusted flaggers or out-of-court dispute settlement bodies).

It is crucial that compliance expectations reflect the vast diversity of digital services to whom the DSA applies. Actions companies take to implement the DSA’s obligations must be proportionate, feasible, and aligned with the legislation’s core principles, but will look different depending on the sector and business models. At the same time, enforcement should apply equally to all actors falling in the scope, irrespectively of where they are based – inside or outside the EU.

To navigate these uncharted waters successfully, a robust collaboration between enforcing authorities – the European Commission and national DSCs – and industry leaders is imperative. European tech companies, driven by a commitment to contributing to a safe and trustworthy internet, seek a genuine partnership with DSCs on their compliance journey  after 17th February. 

The DSA will only deliver on its promise in an environment where communication channels between industry and regulators remain open and constructive, and where the law’s implementation is firmly separated from any political agenda. DSCs should enforce the DSA, but above all should prioritise helping businesses in understanding and meeting their obligations.

EUTA looks forward to the next chapter of the DSA and to working with lawmakers and other stakeholders for a safer and more competitive digital market going forward.