back to article Uber, AirBNB: Lay off 'em, EC tells member states

The European Commission wants member countries to apply a light regulatory touch to “collaborative economy platforms” such as Uber and AirBnB and to ban as a last resort only. The Commission thinks the new gig economy suppliers can make an important contribution to jobs and growth, if - our italics - they are “encouraged and …

  1. Vimes

    If the commission were to spend less time trying to find ways to help corporations avoid the law rather than comply with it - *cough*safe harbour*cough* - then perhaps they would actually have some credibility here?

    It might also be worth noting that the current commission thinks that TTIP is the best thing since sliced bread...

  2. Falmari
    WTF?

    Same Regulation

    They need the same regulatory touch as the existing players offering those services.

    The whole point of the so called sharing economy is to avoid taxes, health and safety and employment laws that the existing players have to follow.

    Also I see no jobs being created just taxi drivers being replaced with casual unregulated labour.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: Same Regulation

      I don;t think that services like BlaBlacar are a problem: it really is carsharing (and if someone tries to make a benefit, they will be surprised to know you lose money).

      With Uber.. no problem either: it can be used for private car hiring if the drivers have the licences. And respecting all the laws, of course, and that includes paying taxes, etc.

      I don-t see the EC saying that we have to accomodate software piracy.. etc

    2. tony72

      Re: Same Regulation

      @ Falmari

      They need the same regulatory touch as the existing players offering those services.

      That's what struck me about this article; why the special case for "collaborative economy platforms"? If the EC was calling for light-touch regulation on all businesses, I'd (after ducking to avoid possible flying pigs) be absolutely delighted. But instead the EC beavers away increasing the regulatory burden on most businesses, then turns around and asks for special treatment for businesses whose net contribution to the economy is highly questionable. Something's not right here.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Same Regulation

      The issue is this kind of "collaborative" economy is not much different from feudal tenancy/sharecropping. The Internet landlords let you use their "internet platform" for a (not so little) share of your revenues, and then you have to put in all the resources needed (cars, rooms, etc.).

      It's a way to reduce the landlord entrepreneurial risks (capitalism? Yes, but we like the money, not the risks!) shifting most of them to the "tenant". It also works more efficiently when you have (almost) no competition yourself, but you can raise competition among your "peasants".

      There were reasons why tenancy/sharecropping needed regulation back then, and thereby there are reasons to regulate the "collaborative" economy now. Especially since collaboration may only happens among peers, not when one of the side is so big to be able to enforce what it likes to "peasants".

      1. Vimes

        Re: Same Regulation @LDS

        Funny you should mention feudal systems and peasants.

        (emphasis added by me)

        The latest to appear on the tapes is Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the internal market commissioner, who was recorded when she was still deputy prime minister in charge of infrastructure. At a (taxpayer financed) dinner with Poland’s anti-corruption chief, Bieńkowska commented that only an “idiot” would work for less than 6,000 zlotys a month (about €1,460), or about twice the average Polish net salary. The recordings were published during the presidential election and cemented the ruling party’s reputation as being out of touch with ordinary Poles.

        http://www.politico.eu/article/a-polish-game-of-tapes/

        She also seems to be involved here too:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/9840084/British-taxpayers-set-to-lose-100m-after-record-Poland-EU-funding-scandal.html

        Also:

        http://www.eurolabour.org.uk/industry-commissioner-medical-devices-elzbieta-bienkowska-health

        Perhaps not the best person to be getting involved in this sort of thing?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same Regulation or "It's the economy stupid"

      For the sake of argument, could we postulate that "casual unregulated labour" producing some income is preferable to "persistent, long-term unemployment" with "limited or no opportunities for income"*?

      Not everyone can find a good job in today's socialist-liberal utopia, even with the best of intentions. Instead, they now try to supplement their dwindling benefits (or simply survive until retirement). And good luck with that college fund, because higher education has just been priced out of your children's reach. Paying for over-priced taxi cabs or hotel rooms will soon drop way down on your list of priorities.

      But at least with Uber, you will get a ride quickly, painlessly and for less money than that heavily regulated cab with its shiny, high-priced medallion. With Airbnb, you can try a very different, lower-cost experience than that offered by cheesy, low budget chain hotels. And people can self-generate income from their existing spare capacity (instead of selling their homes).

      With low-to-zero interest rates, deflation, stagnant growth, higher taxes, unpaid debt and reduced employment opportunities, try to imagine what life will be like for the next generation. Effective labour regulation will be the least of their worries. What they will need is a working economy, because the current one is broken.

      Many people (myself included) are now discovering these sharing alternatives and using them. The dire plight of over-priced hotel chain owners and regulated cab drivers quickly pales into insignificance after the discovery of different, often better service alternatives. Which is how economics works.

      Why is this such a bad thing? Does it remove the gloss from our once affluent, wasteful, and self-centered lifestyle (aka the "good old days")? Should people just stay home and dream about the holidays and travel they can no longer afford?

      Try opening your eyes. Traditional, regulated labour and market models are failing to deliver, big time. Look up terms like "hidden unemployment", "protected markets", "millenial aspirations" and "shadow economy" to get a fuller picture.

      Liberal market economics and social welfare states have become a new form of economic serfdom, where the majority gets continuously poorer and the privileged few get richer. And yet, we keep voting in the same tired old gits, with the same tired old solutions and perpetuate the tired myth that things will get better. But no, things aren't getting better, they are getting worse. Regulations are not the answer, but innovations might be.

      No one is fixing this, even if some entrepreneurs are successfully escaping from the trap. Personally, I salute them. At least they offer alternatives to the complete decline of the Western empire.

      Current trends indicate many mainstream jobs will disappear or be quickly replaced by disruptive technologies. This trend is very unlikely to change, and very likely to accelerate. It is time to begin thinking outside of the economic box originally designed by some steam-powered, 18th-century, Western intellectuals. Regulation will undoubtedly be needed, but shouldn't be based on encrusted cronyism and high barriers to entry. We are moving a little too fast for that now.

      In other words, let's analyse and understand this 21st century manifestation of Taylorism and work with it.

      Reflexive, outdated concepts from a simpler, slower era just won't fix the fallout from what is effectively a new industrial revolution.

      Alternatively, you can come back with this "regulation" thingy after the regulated economy begins providing sustainable employment and economic growth again or when people have begun revolting in the streets, whichever comes first. I'll be under the bridge with everyone else, eating from a can of beans.

      * Quotes are mine, I am sure that I read about or experienced this somewhere.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Same Regulation or "It's the economy stupid"

        "... today's socialist-liberal utopia ..."

        Would you please be so kind as to post directions to that place? I'd like to take a close look at it in order to formulate a personal evaluation.

      2. Vimes

        Re: Same Regulation or "It's the economy stupid" @anon coward

        I don't think I've ever seen so many words used to say so little.

        This is a race to the bottom. How does that help any of us in the long run when all it achieves is to make those well paid jobs even more scarce?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Same Regulation or "It's the economy stupid" @anon coward

          One small issue: both the "scarce" well paid jobs we all yearn for (and other paid jobs) are disappearing, very fast.

          As technology increasingly replaces white and blue collar employment, traditional service jobs will soon follow them into the abyss.

          To remain overpaid for little effort, you should become a Euro MP or a state regulator. Or write a disruptive money wasting, expert system to replace those jobs too.

          Economies are all about people producing goods and services and other people buying them. Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" describes the model rather well. Whether we like it or not, Uber actually does this, for the time being.

          Systems that directly or indirectly pervert or corrupt the natural order of trade (such as monopolies, subsidies. excess regulation, corrupt policies, regulated prices and high barriers to entry) will fail when people vote with their wallets. Eventually these systems sow the seeds of their own destruction by breeding social unrest and revolution. Unemployed people don't take cabs either.

          The consumer's option to pay for drivers who underwent lots of training, paid for lots of insurance, shelled out horrendous licensing fees and "have the knowledge" is still available. However, most would prefer to pay for a cab that arrives on time, has a working GPS and is cheaper to hire. Anything else defies common sense.

          It really is that simple. All the shrill bleating in the world does not prevent homos economus from looking for the better deal. It didn't happen in the USSR or the third world and won't magically happen here.

          Tech which actually creates jobs (in an increasingly jobless economy) should be allowed to run free. Luddite policies that contribute to general economic decline while enriching the few should die a natural death. And it doesn't matter which side of the political divide you are on. People working in cushy government jobs can be just as exploitive (perhaps even more so) of their fellow man than many captains of industry. Money spent stamping out million dollar medaillons, paperwork and executive furniture can also be spent on road repairs and higher wages.

          Satanic mills and disruptive tech companies are just two sequels of the same capitalist screen play. They both produced jobs and displaced other means of production. They both had good and bad impacts. But until everyone is simply paid a universal living income and work becomes an optional life choice, I fail to see any viable alternatives to free market capitalism. We can't regulate ourselves into prosperity. But if we are smart, we can create systems that produce the greatest good for the greatest number, hopefully without bankrupting ourselves.

      3. LDS Silver badge

        "unregulated labour producing some income is preferable to persistent"

        It's just like saying that slavery is good because at least you may have a roof and some food. And that's exactly what they like you to think.

        No one denies having some kind of income is bad. The issue is not letting some (big) entities take full advantage of it, exploiting people in dire need, and use them one against the other to maximize their revenues, while shifting that entrepreneurial risk (which is a key ingredient of a working capitalism, because it offsets greed, for example) to the weakest ring, and bypassing rules other are forced to obey, turning it into unfair competition which is another thing that breaks a working capitalism.

        "Disruptive" doesn't mean "better". And doesn't mean "new" also. As pointed out, the "sharing economy" model is not new at all. It's an old one exactly based on world of a few affluent people controlling the resources, and many other needing to compete for those resources. It's far easy to exploit badly people in such a situation, and that's why XVIII century France collapsed in a bloodbath, and the regulation started to be applied to endow people with rights, and avoid the worst exploiting.

        Capitalism does work, as long as you keep it in a "green zone" where most people, and not just too few ones, take advantage of it. If you let greed shift it into a red zone, where a few people backed by interested politicians believe they can exploit people at will and push them lower and lower, you risk one day heads start rolling, or make communist ideas so appealing people will turn themselves into slaves like in the old CCCP...

  3. John Lilburne

    They can have a single agenda ...

    ... by banning the lot of them.

  4. Panicnow

    Non EU Companies get a better deal from Brussels

    The reason none of these companies started in the EU is that they are illegal, and would have been shut down in days. If the UK was outside the EU, our companies could trash EU laws as well.

    Vote Exit!

    Also interesting to see that it is these companies that are among the highest spenders on Brussels lobbying. The UK could spend a fraction of our contribution and have MORE say on EU laws it would seem.

    What is so disappointing about Brussels corruption is their low price!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pretty clear who took bribes

    European Commission

  6. Lars Silver badge
    Happy

    The problem

    The problem for me is that I am so damned fed up with anything American. Friends and relatives, good memories regardless, I am so totally fed up with what I can see and hear since actually not that long ago. Keep your damned energy in all those important questions like where to piss, who to fuck, who to marry, how many guns you need to buy a cup of coffee and how many grandmother needs under her pillow. Keep the Kardashians, keep Palin, keep Bachmann, keep Trump, keep Cruz and all his religious twats, keep all of that, keep your food, keep your beer, keep your sugar, keep your obesity. The American dream was after all an European idea that did not last.

    The problem is that it has become more and more difficult to find/copy anything of value from the USA. It wasn't always like that, not that all ideas was originally American.

    The problem, for me, is that anything Uber -like or similar that tries to expand across the pond is suspicious to say the least. Keep it, if it's any good then lets have a European Unter or what ever.

    Worst of all is how the Americans have fallen flat in front of the "deregulation lobby". Damn it, it took us more than a hundred years to get even the simplest rules regarding what is put into our food, water, air and rules protecting our working conditions, and so forth.

    It is, of course, true that lots of regulation are outdated and silly, but if that was the real problem, then the industry would have taken them out without any problems. What they actually aim at is to take over the whole thing and decide whats good and whats not good for them as they please. In short, they want to get rid of the "middle man", the society, us, if we keep awake. The damned thing with you Americans is that you fell asleep. Time to wake up.

    The problem is the same for all of us.

    I find it a bit disturbing how some Americans, the very same who have created each and every financial meltdown since the "thirties" boost about how the American middle class absorbed it without a sound why the Europeans complain.

    Then again when it comes to this refugee crisis in Europe the two countries who caused it complain the most about having to deal with it, the least they can.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem

      I find it a bit disturbing how some Americans, the very same who have created each and every financial meltdown since the "thirties" boost about how the American middle class absorbed it without a sound why the Europeans complain.

      Ah yes, America, the land of the free, where it is everyone's God given right to be screwed by the big corporations.

      They're all at it, and it has a debilitating effect on the US economy.

      And when it comes to paying taxes the corporations are expert at avoiding it, the wealthy employ accountants to minimise it, and it's the average Joe who ends up shouldering the bulk of it.

      Look at one example, Apple. They have so much cash they don't know what to do with it. To pay a dividend they don't repatriate that profit, because it would be taxed. Probably some where in the region of $60billion (they've thought to have $150billion-ish, profit earned and languishing in accounts, which would otherwise have been taxed at 40%). Instead they borrow money, pay a dividend from that, and claim tax relief on the repayment! That tax relief is paid for by US citizens!!!!

      That sort of thing may well be legal, but it is going to lead to trouble if every company does it and does it for too long. It is not sustainable.

      And so we end up with someone like Trump being astonishingly (and from most view points, appallingly) popular. One of his lines - "Rich people are gonna have to pay more tax" - will ring true with a large majority (even if it is double standards on his part).

      He's standing on an anti-establishment ticket. One thing history teaches us - establishments are useless at spotting some one like Trump coming for them and are useless at responding effectively. He's popular because a lot of Americans are unhappy able they way their country is being run, and that is partly the fault of the Industrial-Political clique (of which Apple, Google, MS, Uber, Amazon, etc. are a part) that runs the place.

      If the USA was a place where contentment was more evenly spread, Trump wouldn't stand a chance. Aggressive corporate business practices build an environment where a nutter like Trump can succeed.

      Is it good for long term shareholder value to create the conditions for someone like a Trump to thrive?

      No, it is not. I fear we may find out starting January next year.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: The problem

        "establishments are useless at spotting some one like Trump coming for them and are useless at responding effectively",

        The US media is failing too, if not all, news have become nothing but entertainment ;

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoeGeQokR9Y

        What is it with us, He is like a spoiled brat among adults, adults who cannot shut him down because adults are adults. I seriously think the Germans were confronted with a similar psycho not that long ago.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Europeans need to seriously wake up...

      * Why do so many EU citizens buy into the whole US unicorn lie?

      * As you say lets create our own unicorn flavors... Any European who uses Google and gives them their 80-90% market share needs to wise up and use DuckDuckgo / Startpage etc instead!

      * The last time America was great was during the original moon landing space program imho... Since then its all being about unjustified marketing of American Exceptionalism...

      .

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Europeans need to seriously wake up...

        We should all stay awake. There is no need for anything US against Europe, it's about taking care of democracy and humanity and prevent oligarchy. Right now I am more concerned about the mental state of the US than about Europe, (and I agree with Sanders). Not that we don't have problems too, of course,

        We cannot prevent Multinationals from forming but we should not let them write the rules.

        As long as Google plays by the rules, I am OK with that, and if they pay their fair share of taxes.

        Uber I consider a scam.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The EU is playing a dangerous privacy game too with the country in charge...

    ...a lite touch regulator with no independence and heavy reliance on jobs from US multinationals... Anyone still remember Uber and their creepy 'you people are so interesting' one-night stand analysis.. ???

    -----

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0313/686753-data-protection/

    ===============================================

    "An epic fail for Ireland’s data protection laws - In the Microsoft case, the Government’s stance is right. But it is also staggeringly duplicitous. It shows that the State will defend critical data protection and privacy rights when they are directly interwoven with corporate interests. But it will not do so when the fundamental rights of its own citizens are at stake."

    -----

    http://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/an-epic-fail-for-ireland-s-data-protection-laws-1.2512866

    ===============================================

    "Independence of Data Protection Commissioner questioned - Repeated criticism The commissioner’s office is considered one of the most important regulatory roles in Europe because of the high number of multinational, data-rich firms based in Ireland, including Facebook, Apple and LinkedIn. It has come under repeated criticism from some EU sources for being “soft” on regulation, partly because of the number of jobs such firms support here."

    -----

    http://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/independence-of-data-protection-commissioner-questioned-1.2513682

    ===============================================

    "Ireland's hefty data industry demands equally big industry cop • The Register - Though the DPC was given something of a face-lift last year, it is still far from adored. In January, Digital Rights Ireland instructed its lawyers to serve legal papers on the Irish government, challenging whether the commissioner's office was truly an “independent data protection authority” under EU law. The DPC has also been accused by some of having failed to be a strong enforcer and of merely accommodating complaints. In is annual reports, the DPC revealed surprisingly low statistics on data complaints, having instead marked communications from the public as “contacts” even if they contained grievances."

    -----

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/05/10/ireland_eu_us_data_protection_regulator/

    ===============================================

    "Data Protection Day to be marked at Trinity College Dublin - “Companies are testing all kinds of algorithms which calculate a price just for you, which is a whole new level of [data personalisation] most people are not aware of"

    -----

    http://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/data-protection-day-to-be-marked-at-trinity-college-dublin-1.2512757

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More conflict and drama needed in this thread

    http://mashable.com/2016/06/01/uber-funding-saudi-arabia/?utm_cid=mash-com-li-main-link%23XXMcllA5Z9qV#INJTst1BKgqp

  9. dave 93

    There are lots of “collaborative economy platforms”

    Bitcoin

    Credit Unions

    Online advertising

    Social Media

    eBay

    Etsy

    etc.

    Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater...

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: There are lots of “collaborative economy platforms”

      I have a slight feeling it's not just the baby but the bath tube and the water too. And please don't mix the internet into this. For "“collaborative economy platforms”" you have to try much harder.

      1. dave 93
        Facepalm

        Re: There are lots of “collaborative economy platforms”

        'please don't mix the internet into this'

        Duh! How do you think all these new 'platforms' are enabled?

        Instant, global, high bandwidth data communication, for virtually no cost, to everyone with money, sometimes referred to as 'the internet' will continue to be an excellent way to bypass traditional hegemonic business models, because people are rather clever and like making money.

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