In 2018 the European Commission produced a number of studies:
The collaborative short-term accommodation sector
The study aims to provide a description and preliminary assessment of the regulatory environment in EU countries while taking into account the dynamics and on-going changes in the sector.6
Monitoring the business and regulatory environment
This study assesses the business environment in the collaborative economy across six themes (accommodation, transport, finance, public administration, business support and alignment) in EU countries. The study developed a “Collaborative Economy Index” to measure and benchmark the openness of regulatory environments and the supportiveness of administrative actions.7
Monitoring the economic development of the collaborative economy
This study measures how developed the EU collaborative economy is in the transport, accommodation, finance and online skills sectors. The size of the collaborative economy was estimated at €26.5 billion (0.17% of EU GDP in 2016) and provides work for 394,000 people (0.15% of EU employment).8
Platform workers in Europe
This Joint Research Centre (JRC) Science for Policy report helps to estimate the scale of platform work, outline the main characteristics of platform workers, their working conditions and motivations, and describes the type of services provided through digital employment platforms. It is based on a survey of over 32,000 people across 14 EU countries.9
In October 2018, the Commission organized a high-level conference, “Collaborative economy: opportunities, challenges, policies” to take stock of policy, regulatory and market developments. At the conference, then EU Commissioner, Bieńkowska affirmed her conviction that the European single market must help new business models. The European Commissioner called for common answers to common issues to decrease the current degree of regulatory fragmentation. Also noteworthy is that at the conference a panelist on policy and market developments emphasized that it is urgent for the EU to address regulatory fragmentation in the EU so that businesses can scale up and Europe is not left further behind the US and China in digital technologies and services. He urged the European Commission to be more active in promoting market harmonization.10
As the European Commission’s work evolved in the identification of regulatory issues, while at the same time understanding the benefits that the sharing economy has brought, several issues were brought to light. For example, in some countries there are price restrictions in relation to the transport sector, while in the accommodation sector there are differences in registration and authorizations. To an extent, EU Member States have sought to address those issues through laws, including mandatory laws applicable to contracts in the sharing economy. Such mandatory laws are additional to those laws that pre-existed the development of the sharing economy.
For example, most Member States have had for many years regulations concerning insurance and safety issues for drivers and vehicles carrying fare-paying passengers; in relation to accommodation there are high levels of fire safety rules that apply to hotels but do not apply to domestic homes that rent out spare rooms to paying guests. In addition, such pre-existing laws are applied to the sharing economy but they may not be fully appropriate or adequate given its particular characteristics.
Recent EU activity
In January 2020 in a call for tenders the European Commission (Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST)) called on prospective tenderers to respond to a theoretical study in relation to the mandatory laws of the EU countries as applied to the sharing economy. The European Commission identifies in the call for tenders that, “in order for DG JUST to identify whether and to which extent market obstacles or failures may result from legal fragmentation or gaps in national legal frameworks, a comprehensive overview/mapping of national rules applicable in specific sectors is essential.”11
This, combined with the other changes relevant to the sharing economy being proposed by the EU,12 leads to a number of questions which businesses should consider in their medium to long-term operational and potentially strategic planning.
(The views of third parties set out in this publication are not necessarily the views of the global EY organization or its member firms. Moreover, they should be seen in the context of the time they were made - This material has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as accounting, tax, legal or other professional advice - EY member firms do not practice law where not permitted by local law and regulations.)