Luca Belli (17/12/2021). User. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio. https://platformglossary.info/user/.
Author: Luca Belli
A platform user is any individual or entity utilizing the services provided by a specific platform. The Recommendations on Terms of Service and Human Rights developed by the IGF Coalition on Platform Responsibility provide a broad definition of a Platform User as any natural or legal person entering into a contractual relationship defined by the platform’s terms of service. Hence, every platform user is directly affected by the decisions and actions taken unilaterally by the platform provider to define the platform governance, either via its terms of service or via its technical architecture (Lessig 20061; Belli, 2016 & 20222).
Platform users may be taxonomized in three broad categories, including consumers, business users, and providers of complementary services. Consumers are natural persons, regardless of their nationality, who acquire or use goods or services of a kind generally acquired or used for personal, domestic, or household purposes, thus not utilizing or acquiring goods and services for business purposes (UNCTAD, 2017:6)3.
Business users are business enterprises that utilize a platform to offer goods or services to consumers, without being required, in principle, to operate a standalone website. As pointed out by the European Commission (2018)4, in addition to allowing for an online presence of business users, online platforms frequently facilitate direct communications between individual business users and consumers through an embedded online communications interface. Importantly, business users of online platforms find themselves in a situation of dependence on the platform’s intermediation services, thus leading to a situation in which business users often have limited possibilities to seek redress, when unilateral actions of the platform providers lead to a dispute.
There exist numerous providers of complementary products and services on all (or connected to) the big platforms. As noted by Crémer, de Montjoye, Schweitzer (2019)5, large platforms often invite third parties to sell their products or services on top of the original product the company already sells. This choice allows the platform to diversify its offering, and clearly has pro- competitive aspects. However, when the hosted service competes with services offered by a dominant platform itself, the rules governing the cooperation between the two may become a prime concern of antitrust enforcement.
- Lessig L. (2006). Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace. Version 2.0. Basic Books United Nations Conference on Trade and Development – UNCTAD. (2017). Manual on Consumer Protection.Available at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditccplp2017d1_en.pdf.
- Belli, L. (2016). De la Gouvernance à la régulation de l’Internet. Berger-Levrault. 202-208.
Belli, L. (2022). Structural Power as a Critical Element of Social Media Platforms’ Private Sovereignty. In Celeste, E., Heldt, A., and Iglesias Keller, C. (Eds). Constitutionalising Social Media. Hart. http://bit.ly/BelliPrivateSovereignty
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development – UNCTAD. (2017). Manual on Consumer Protection. Available at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditccplp2017d1_en.pdf.
- European Commission. (2018). Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services, COM(2018) 238 final, Brussels, 26.4.2018. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52018PC0238&from=en.
- Crémer, J., de Montjoye, Y. A., & Schweitzer, H. (2019). Competition Policy for the digital era. European Commission. Publications Office of the European Union.