Home Knowledge Decoding the DSA: Practical Takeaways for Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces

Decoding the DSA: Practical Takeaways for Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces

The Digital Services Act (DSA) came into effect for all online intermediary service providers (ISPs) on 17 February 2024. The DSA is a new regulatory regime that applies to many businesses operating online.

In the run-up to the DSA-deadline, we detailed the categories of ISPs that come within the scope of the DSA (here) and the applicable obligations on those within the DSA’s remit (here).

Under the DSA, considerable obligations exist for e-commerce companies that disseminate information to the public (Online Platforms) and Online Platforms that allow consumers to conclude distance contracts with traders (Online Marketplaces).

Is your E-Commerce Company an Online Platform or Online Marketplace under the DSA?

Online Platforms are a category of ISP that make information accessible to an unlimited number of persons online. This includes social networks, app stores, content sharing websites and collaborative economy platforms; but excludes email exchanges, private messaging services, micro/small enterprises and information shared by closed finite groups.

Online Marketplaces are a subset of the Online Platform ISP, which are subject to additional obligations to those of Online Platforms. Online Marketplaces facilitate traders and consumers concluding distance contracts, such as contracts concluded without the simultaneous physical presence of the trader and the consumer, which incorporate the exclusive use of distance communication up to and including the time at which the contract is concluded.

While all ISPs are subject to the general obligations under the DSA, Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces have requirements specific to them, that they must meet.

Key Takeaways for Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces

Here are some insights that e-commerce companies need to consider.

1. Publish Key Figures

The obligations relating to transparency in the DSA apply to Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces. These obligations include publishing an annual transparency report; and giving a clear ‘statement of reasons’ to users of Online Marketplaces (Recipients) whose information is restricted on the grounds that such information constitutes illegal content.

However, Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces are also subject to additional transparency obligations, including the publication of certain statistical information. E-commerce companies should be alive to the requirement to publish the:

  • number of average monthly active Recipients of the marketplace;
  • total number of complaints received through their internal complaints handling system;
  • total number of disputes submitted to out-of-court dispute settlement bodies;
  • average decision time and the proportion of decisions implemented by the platform provider; and
  • total number of suspensions for frequent misuse.

2. Update Terms & Conditions

Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces should review and update their terms and conditions (T&Cs). Specifically, T&Cs need to detail:

  • the main parameters underlying their use of recommender systems (discussed previously here), as well as the Recipients’ options to change or influence those parameters;
  • what content is incompatible with their T&Cs;
  • any policies and restrictions imposed on content (Content Moderation) and their use of Content Moderation tools;
  • the measures and protections in place against misusers of their platform; and
  • the parameters of use for minors on their platform.

 3. Provide Access to an ‘Internal Complaint Handling System’ and ‘Out-of-Court Dispute Settlement’

Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces must provide Recipients with access to an Internal Complaint Handling System (ICHS). This ICHS should clarify your business’ policies in respect of complaints made relating to decisions on illegal content or content incompatible with that e-commerce company’s T&Cs. It should make clear to Recipients:

  • how their complaint can be submitted;
  • how it will be processed; and
  • the form of remedy and redress they can expect.

The ICHS also should incorporate human oversight and businesses cannot be solely reliant on automated decision making or artificial intelligence (AI).

E-commerce companies must also inform users of the option to access an out-of-court dispute settlement. Information on this option should be clear, user-friendly and easily accessible on the company’s online interface. While decisions made by these bodies have no binding effect, platforms have to bear the fees of these bodies and the Recipient’s costs if a decision is favourable to the Recipient.

4. Prioritise Trusted Flaggers

Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces must now prioritise notifications of illegal content by ‘trusted flaggers’ (entities such as Europol or NGOs), and as such should consider building additional functionality necessary to give effect to this requirement within their complaint and user notification systems.

5. Issue Suspensions to Misusers

E-commerce companies are obliged to suspend frequent misusers of their platforms who provide illegal content or who submit manifestly unfounded complaints. They must issue suspensions on a case-by-case basis, for a reasonable period of time, and only after having issued a prior warning, taking into account:

  • how many items of manifestly illegal content or unfounded notices or complaints were submitted within a given time frame and its proportion to the total number of notices or complaints submitted;
  • the gravity of the misuses, including the nature of illegal content, and their consequences; and
  • the intention of the user, individual, entity or complainant.

6. Comply with Advertising Standards

The DSA has incorporated online advertisement obligations and as such, Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces should ensure that relevant posts:

  • clearly inform Recipients that a specific post constitutes an advertisement;
  • identify the person on whose behalf the advertisement is presented (and who paid for the advertisement);
  • explain the main parameters used to determine the target of the advertisement and (where available) how to change such parameters;
  • create a functionality within their services with which business Recipients can declare whether the information they provide constitutes or contains advertising; and
  • should not participate in profiling-based online advertisements where sensitive data is processed, such as health data, or which is aimed at minors.

7. Establish Safeguards for Minors

E-commerce companies are required to put in place safeguards and appropriate measures to secure a high level of privacy, safety and security for minors, such as adopting standards or codes of conduct for the protection of minors, and as mentioned above, detailing the parameters of use for minors in their T&Cs and not presenting advertisements to minors based on profiling. Such safeguards do not apply to platforms if:

  • its use is not permitted by minors within its T&Cs;
  • the platform is not directed at or predominantly used by minors; and
  • if the service provider is not otherwise aware that some of its Recipients are minors.

8. Assess your Interface

Online Platforms and Online Marketplaces should assess the design of their interfaces. In particular, the DSA prohibits ‘dark patterns’ (read more on this here), and Interfaces cannot:

  • give more prominence to certain choices the user has to make;
  • repeatedly request Recipients to make choices they’ve already made, especially by presenting pop-ups that interfere with the user experience;
  • make the procedure of cancelling a service more burdensome than subscribing to it;
  • distort or impair Recipients’ abilities to make autonomous and informed decisions;
  • make certain choices more difficult or time-consuming than others;
  • deceive Recipients with default settings that are difficult to change; and
  • make it unreasonably difficult to discontinue purchases or to sign out of a platform.

Online Marketplaces specifically must design their interfaces to enable traders to comply with their obligations regarding pre-contractual and product safety information under applicable EU law.

Further Takeaways for Online Marketplaces Only

9. Trace your Traders

Online Marketplaces are required to trace traders who enter contracts with consumers on their platforms. For traders already using an Online Marketplace, the Online Marketplace has 12 months from 17 February 2024 to obtain certain information from them before it must suspend the trader. Online Marketplaces must also store traders’ information securely for 6 months following the end of their relationship, after which time it must be deleted. Read further information on trader traceability here.

10. Inform Consumers of Illegal Products/Services

If Online Marketplaces become aware of illegal products/services being offered through their platform to EU consumers, they must inform consumers, who purchased the product/service in the preceding 6 months:

  • that the product/service is illegal;
  • of the identity of trader; and
  • of the means of redress.

If the Online Marketplace does not have the contact details of the consumer, it must make the information publicly available and easily accessible on its online interface.


Failure of e-commerce companies to comply with the DSA’s requirements can trigger considerable fines of up to 6% of preceding year’s worldwide turnover, up to 1% of such turnover for non-cooperation with investigations and periodic penalties up to 5% of average daily turnover.

With the DSA now applicable to all ISPs, e-commerce companies have no time to waste. The DSA’s extensive obligations cannot be implemented overnight so if you are still unsure of your organisations commitments under the DSA try using our free DSA scope analysis tool here.

For further information on how to get DSA-compliant, please contact Leo Moore or your usual William Fry contact, or email [email protected].


Contributed by: Imogen Boles Gray, Jordie Sattar