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17th Dec 2017

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MEPs want more legal clarity on Airbnb and Uber

A group of cross-party MEPs has called on the European Commission to better explain how EU rules apply to the so-called sharing economy.

The European Parliament's committee on internal market and consumer protection (Imco) adopted a text on Wednesday (3 May) that praised the positive role the sharing economy can play in creating employment, increasing consumer choice and reducing the pressure on resources.

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  • MEPs say that there is legal uncertainty about when and how EU legislation applies. (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The phrase sharing economy - also known as collaborative economy or gig economy - refers to the phenomenon of online platforms that allow citizens to share or sell access to goods and services, in a way that has started uprooting traditional business models.

The most well-known examples are accommodation-rental platform Airbnb and ride-selling app Uber.

As the newcomers challenge traditional business models like the hotel and taxi sector, a lot of debate has arisen about whether their services adhere to EU legislation.

The Imco committee said there was a “lack of clarity among entrepreneurs, consumers and authorities as to how to apply current regulations in some areas”.

The MEPs said there were “regulatory grey areas” and that when member states each apply the rules in their own way, as they tend to do now in relation to the sharing economy, there is a “risk of fragmentation” in the EU's single market.

The text “welcomed” the fact that the European Commission, the EU's executive body, last year produced a set of guidelines on how to apply EU legislation.

However, they also said the commission's report “did not bring sufficient clarity about the applicability of existing EU legislation to different collaborative economy models”.

MEPs asked the commission and the EU's 28 national governments to come up with additional guidelines. They also noted that member state governments need to “step up enforcement of existing legislation”.

The Imco committee adopted the resolution with 31 votes in favour, one against, and three abstentions.

The text is non-binding and will need the support of the parliament. However, the exceptionally wide majority in committee means it is very likely to pass.

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