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Collaborative economy: local leaders call for more clarity and ambition

Bolder action needed to seize the potential of social and entrepreneurial development in strategic sectors such as tourism, transport, care services

Regions and cities want to fully exploit the potential of the collaborative economy in delivering jobs, innovative and better services, sustainability and solidarity. But the European Commission guidelines on a "European agenda for the collaborative economy " leave too many issues unclear for national and regional regulators, the European Committee of the Regions concludes in an opinion adopted on 7 December.

In an opinion drafted by Benedetta Brighenti (IT/PES), deputy mayor of Castelnuovo Rangone, Emilia Romagna, EU's cities and regions warn against the risks of the legal uncertainty connected to the collaborative economy – often also referred to as "sharing economy" – and call for a balanced and forward-looking EU legal framework that would boost entrepreneurial development whilst ensuring the rights of workers, consumers and incumbent operators.

"Agreeing on common rules is a precondition for us to seize the potential of this new economy. Local economies and communities need the EU to provide clarity and trust without massive increases of red tape and legal requirements ", said the rapporteur, adding: " We need a clear classification of service providers, a clarification of the social and employment responsibilities of online platforms as well as of the users' rights, together with common thresholds for market access. We also need to give, at European level, rules for start-ups that ensure both fair competition and competiveness on the global market ."

According to regions and cities, improving the legal framework is crucial in order to minimise risks of regulatory fragmentation introduced by the current case-law approach, in which EU-wide rules are set case by case through rulings of the EU Court of Justice. A review of the EU Services Directive, updating its provisions and definitions of key terms, such as the one of "service provider", is also needed.

With regards to taxation, local leaders stress that a collaborative online platform can be a strategic tool that make it possible to track activities and transactions that normally remain in the shadow economy. To this purpose, smart and shared solutions are needed to avoid regulatory breaches such as with tourist taxes, which are not collected on stays reserved through collaborative economy platforms.

The opinion also calls for a strengthening of cooperation between authorities and platforms, including through the creation of a forum of collaborative-economy cities.

Pierluigi Boda
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