Über influential? How the gig economy's lobbyists undermine social and worker's rights
By the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). Published on 5 September 2019
This report describes the lobbying efforts of of companies from the so-called gig economy or platform economy --especially Uber and Airbnb-- at the European Commission to keep the Services Directive and the e-Commerce Directive in a way that prevents national and local authorities from regulating those companies' activities.
From the article on the CEO's site:
Platform companies’ key concern is to maintain their special privileges as part of the so-called ‘collaborative’ digital economy, including freedom from many regulations that ordinary taxi, home-letting, or temp firms, say, would be subject to.
In response to the challenges platforms pose to eg. housing policy or labour rights, authorities have taken measures to mitigate the effect of the rapid increase in the use of the services provided by platforms. In response, some platforms, Uber and AirBnB in particular, have launched multifaceted lobby campaigns to persuade decision-makers in the EU institutions to come to their defence. In particular, they have worked intensely for years to persuade the Commission to develop its interpretation of two existing directives that suits their interests, the Services Directive and the e-Commerce Directive.
The current application by the Commission of these two Directives touch on key interests of the platforms. The e-Commerce Directive makes it difficult to impose rules on the platforms due to the so-called ‘country-of-origin principle’.
They enable platforms to refuse to cooperate with local authorities when they try to acquire the necessary data to enforce protective laws
A simple thing as a requirement to obtain a licence can be prevented by the current application of the rules.
They can even be used to counter legitimate restrictions on the use of the platform, as in the case of limits to the letting of flats to secure affordable housing for locals.
The European Commission, dazzled by talk of innovation, has been all too willing to be influenced by these companies’ lobbying aims. And if the Commission does not live fully up to expectations of platform lobbyists, they can often rely on member state governments instead, as in a recent case on the definition of ‘employee’ which leaves many platform workers without the protection enjoyed by colleagues with similar jobs.
Keywords: EU, European Union, European Court of Justice, ECJ, Court of Justice of the EU, CJEU, EC, European Commission, DG GROW, Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, EP, European Parliament, Uber, Airbnb, Flint Global, lobbying