Thursday

23rd May 2019

EU should welcome Uber-type firms, commission says

  • A protest against the Uber car ride service in Brussels. (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission is weighing in on the side the ”sharing economy” and is urging sceptics to get used to the idea.

”Whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay,” Elzbieta Bienkowska, the commissioner for the internal market, said on Thursday (2 June), .

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

”We can close our eyes and ears, but that’s losing energy on trying to prevent innovation from happening,” she added.

The commission's vice-president Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth and investment, pointed out that the sharing economy in the EU was worth €25 billion in 2015.

”Europe's next unicorn could stem from the collaborative economy,” he said, using business jargon for a start-up that quickly makes $1 billion.

”Many of those who would like to start a business never take the first step. The sharing economy offers much lower entry threshold, it allows people to test the waters.”

He said Europe had to go with the times and open up to new business models.

”We are in a global competition with regulators from other regions,” Katainen noted. ”It’s always easy to regulate the past. But on this matter, the EU must be on the right side of history.”

Promises and protests

There is no definition of what constitutes the sharing economy. The commission describes it as new business models, primarily based on transactions between users of collaborative platforms that trade in the temporary use of products or services.

The model is best developed in the hospitality and transport sectors. Uber, the car-ride service, or Airbnb, which allows private people to rent out rooms and apartments, have quickly established themselves as household names among young Europeans.

They have also caused public and political protests. Taxi drivers fear losing clients to amateur drivers, who are not bound by expensive permits and who keep their prices lower. Mayors of Paris and Barcelona have denounced Airbnb for causing housing shortages, as property owners prefer to rent out their places to tourists instead of long-term local residents.

In retaliation, Uber has filed complaints to the commission against France, Germany and Spain.

The commission tried to soothe nerves on Thursday (2 June) by issuing guidelines for how existing EU regulations, especially in the area of services, e-commerce and consumer protection - should apply to the sharing economy.

New protectionism

”There’s a risk of a new type of protectionism, not between nations but between old business models and new ones,” Katainen said.

It would be wrong to see the sharing economy as a zero-sum game, where established jobs would be superseded by newcomers, he said.

The commission said its guidelines will help it, as well as national authorities and courts, apply EU law on consumer and employment protection, liability issues, market restrictions and taxation to the sharing economy.

Monique Goyens, director general of the European consumer organisation BEUC, said the sharing economy had many benefits that had to be embraced.

”It is shaking up the consumer experience and paves the way for new opportunities in many markets,” Goyens said.

But the emergence of these new players raised important questions, she noted.

”Consumers need these platforms to be transparent about their business model and provide adequate protection when something goes wrong.”

According to a Eurobarometer published at the same occasion as the guidelines, 17 percent of Europeans had used a collaborative platform at least once. The figure was almost twice as high - 32 percent - among younger, highly educated, urban EU citizens.

Magazine

EU cities try their own 'Ubers'

As some places struggle to deal with the impact of firms like Uber and Airbnb, other cities are embracing the change and seeking to learn.

Focus

Uber: Goodbye Denmark, but not farewell

Ride-sharing service Uber has announced it will shut down activities in Denmark in protest over a new law introducing the same requirements for Uber as for other taxi services.

Magazine

Uber still divides Europe

Uber says national regulations are often outdated, but taxi drivers still see the app as unfair competition.

News in Brief

  1. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  2. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal
  3. UK sacked defence secretary backs Johnson for leader
  4. Dutch voter turnout so far slightly down on 2014
  5. Report: Hungary's Fidesz 'bought' Belgian official
  6. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  7. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  8. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Polling booths open in UK's limbo EU election
  2. Dutch PM puts EU exit on agenda with election gamble
  3. EU development aid used to put European police in Senegal
  4. EU should stop an insane US-Iran war
  5. EU faces moment of truth at midnight on Sunday
  6. Dutch MPs: EU sanctions should bear Magnitsky name
  7. Far-right hate speech flooded Facebook ahead of EU vote
  8. Key details on how Europeans will vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us