Amazon is first US firm to challenge EU digital rules

12 Jul 2023

Image: © tashatuvango/

Amazon claims it is being ‘unfairly singled out’ for being labelled as a very large online platform, which will impose strict rules in monitoring illegal content under the EU’s DSA.

Amazon is trying to strike a blow against the EU, challenging the company’s inclusion in a list of larger entities that will be subject to tougher enforcement around online content.

The tech giant is challenging its label as a “very large online platform” (VLOP) under the Digital Services Act (DSA). This is the EU’s landmark rules to tackle illegal content online and imposes strict rules on larger companies.

Amazon was labelled as a VLOP in April 2022 after the DSA was agreed upon, along with 16 other companies including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Zalando.

The tech giant has issued a challenge in the EU’s General Court and claims it does not meet the criteria of being a VLOP. Amazon also claims rivals with a larger EU presence have not been listed as VLOPs, Reuters reports.

“If the VLOP designation were to be applied to Amazon and not to other large retailers across the EU, Amazon would be unfairly singled out and forced to meet onerous administrative obligations that don’t benefit EU consumers,” a company spokesperson told Reuters.

Amazon is the first US company to challenge the designation, which could spur other businesses into doing so. This challenge follows a similar move by German online retailer Zalando, which filed a legal claim at the EU’s top court last month. Zalando argued that the “majority retail nature of its business model” means it does not pose a risk of “disseminating harmful or illegal content from third parties”.

What exactly is a VLOP?

Under the DSA, VLOPs are categorised as those with more than 45m monthly active users in the EU, a figure which will be adjusted over time to represent 10pc of the population. These companies will be required to stay on top of content moderation, along with the threat of annual audits around these practices.

The illegal content these companies will have to watch out for is broad under the DSA. It includes hate speech, child sexual abuse material, scams, non-consensual sharing of private images, promotion of terrorism, the sale of counterfeit or unsafe products and copyright infringement.

Very large platforms will need to be able to monitor and manage any harmful content, including disinformation. For marketplaces, the onus is on them to vet third-party traders and ensure products and services sold there are genuine and safe.

Regulators who find businesses to be non-compliant will be able to issue fines of up to 6pc of a company’s global turnover, which could lead to massive fines for a tech giant like Amazon.

Similar DMA criteria

Meanwhile, Amazon was one of seven Big Tech companies to declare to the EU that it qualifies as a “gatekeeper” under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the sister act to the DSA that aims to reign in the dominance of bigger companies.

According to the DMA, a gatekeeper is a company that has had an annual turnover in Europe of at least €7.5bn in the last three years or market value of at least €75bn in its last financial year and operations in at least three member states.

However, a company must also have served more than 45m monthly active users and more than 10,000 yearly active business users in the EU to be a DMA, which is similar to the DSA criteria of being listed as a VLOP.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic