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Platform economy: EU rules needed to ensure fair competition and workers' rights  

​​​​ Local and regional leaders have highlighted to Nicolas Schmit, new European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, that the EU needs to set clear rules for platform economy to guarantee workers' rights and ensure a level playing field between online and offline economic activities in the single market.

Two opinions adopted by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) today stress that many current EU regulations are outdated against the emergence of new business models and non-standard forms of employment that are frequent in digital platforms. Notably the implementation of the e-Commerce Directive , which dates back to 2000, has led to several court cases surrounding companies such as Uber and Airbnb.

Speaking at the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session in his first public appearance as Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit said: "The new Commission’s agenda strives to address the ongoing challenges and opportunities posed by the new world of work, globalisation, automation, digitalisation and artificial intelligence, coupled with our shift to a carbon-neutral economy. We need to make sure that all Europeans can benefit during these transitions, especially when it comes to their jobs and livelihoods. Our regional governments and administrations will be instrumental in making sure that this shared purpose becomes a reality."

Karl-Heinz Lambertz , President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "Social rights must be at the centre of the EU's future, protecting people whilst embracing technological change. The EU must set out a clear plan that ensures that the changes to our industries avoids further polarising wages and increasing inequalities. With the right regulation, platform work is one opportunity to ensure everyone benefits from digitalisation, leaving no one behind."

The two opinions focus on different aspects of collaborative economy and platform work. The first one , prepared by Dimitrios Birmpas (EL/PES), Municipal Councillor of Egaleo, stresses that a comprehensive regulatory framework at EU level is necessary to ensure the social protection and social rights for platform workers against practices such as deliberate misclassification of workers as self-employed by employers seeking to avoid employment regulations, fiscal obligations and collective agreements.

"Platform work brings a number of opportunities to the labour market because it is easily accessible and flexible. However, appropriate measures have to be put in place to ensure decent working conditions for platform workers. Fundamental labour and social regulations must be extended to the platform economy and its workers, many of them young people. Given the transnational nature of digital economy, a clear European framework is necessary to address the many regulatory challenges arising from platform work, including how to determine the existence of an employment relationship", argues the rapporteur, who welcomes Commissioner Schmit's intention to address labour conditions of platform workers and new forms of precariousness.

The second opinion calls for the EU to define clearly the status of collaborative economy platforms, according to the precise degree of control exercised by the platform, in order to clarify the question of which rules govern their operations. Furthermore, as the collaborative economy blurs the line between personal and professional actors, the concept of "service provider" should be clarified through EU-wide thresholds. The new EU regulations should also require platforms to provide public authorities with the necessary data to enforce the rules and to ensure that collaborative economy suppliers pay their fair share of taxes.

Rapporteur Peter Florianschütz (AT/PES), Member of the Vienna Regional Parliament and Vienna City Council, said: "We need clear, fair rules in the EU for digital platforms. The laws must apply to all, and the EU needs to take care of the interests of its citizens in cities, communities and regions. At present, we have more problems than solutions, ranging from taxation issues, short-term leases in the housing sector, as well as difficulties in the area of urban mobility and in the public sphere. The EU must better listen to its cities."

The opinion also expresses concerns on the fragmentation of single market, as Member States, regions and cities have set different rules for collaborative economy market players. The CoR believes that harmonised rules would promote the growth of smaller collaborative economy businesses against existing large, multinational platforms, which are better able to cope with regulatory complexity.

Contact:

Lauri Ouvinen

Tel. +32 22822063

lauri.ouvinen@cor.europa.eu