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EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA): the upcoming obligation to publish number of active recipients in the EU

The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) came into force on 16 November 2022. In our previous article on the topic, we introduced some of the key requirements of this new legislation affecting online service providers in the EU. While most of the DSA’s obligations will only start to apply from 17 February 2024, specific transparency obligations will already come into effect from 2023. In this article, we look at this upcoming DSA deadline and outline what it means for online businesses in the EU.

What is the upcoming DSA transparency obligation and how does it affect online businesses?

By 17 February 2023 (and at least once every six months after that), online platforms (e.g., online marketplaces, social networks and content-sharing platforms) and online search engines will need to publish information on the “average monthly number of active recipients of their service” in the EU, calculated over the past six months.

The EU Commission will then use these figures to determine which online platforms and online search engines are to be considered “very large online platforms” (VLOPs) or “very large online search engines” (VLOSEs). It’s worth noting that VLOPs and VLOSEs are subject to stricter oversight and an accelerated DSA compliance timetable.

Who is affected?

Online platforms and search engines established in the EU which offer their products or services to users established or located in the EU. Providers who qualify as micro or small enterprises (see Recommendation 2003/361/EC for definition) are exempt from the obligation, although they are required to provide relevant information to competent authorities upon request at any time.

Where should the information be published?

Providers must make that information publicly available on their online interfaces (e.g., on a dedicated page, news tab or other section that everyone can access). Such information must be easily accessible in a clear and user-friendly manner, and be updated every 6 months.

How does the calculation of the number of “active recipients” take place?

The DSA does not have sufficient information or clear guidance on how platforms should calculate the number of active recipients. So clearly, the calculation in practice is a highly complex undertaking and the methodology may vary between platforms as they have different business models, user types, and designs.

However, the definition of “active recipients” outlined in recital 77 of the DSA is helpful as a starting point. “Active recipients” includes all users accessing the service, not only those with registered accounts. So, all users who have engaged with the service at least once in the previous six months (for instance, by accessing or providing information on the website, or merely viewing or listening to content disseminated on the online platform), will have to be counted as active recipients of the service. This means that not only sellers, buyers or users with registered accounts are to be counted as active recipients.

Recital 77 DSA also clarifies that providers should avoid double-counting where possible. For example, to limit the number to ‘unique recipients’, individuals who engage with such websites via multiple devices should be counted only once. However, the obligation to calculate users does not require providers to profile and track users, and the DSA should not be understood as providing a ground to process personal data or track users.

How can Logan and Partners help?

DSA obligations can have a significant impact on online businesses. For more information on how we can help you and the recommended steps for your business, please contact Isadora Werneck and schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

Isadora Werneck


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