EU issues sharing economy support guidance

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The European Union has released new guidelines on the sharing economy, encouraging member states to support businesses in the space by recommending new policies to give greater consistency for consumers.

The EU Commission estimate that €27bn was made in gross revenue from sharing economy platforms in 2015 throughout member states. Their findings indicate that 52% of EU citizens are aware of the collaborative economy, and 17% have used a platform or service already.

The new policy guidelines (which can be downloaded by clicking here) aim to harmonise the treatment of businesses across the 28 member states, to give greater consistency for customers. It also intends to nurture growth in the sharing economy, stating clearly that bans on services should be a very last resort. It also aims to differentiate between occasional and professional users of sharing economy services.

Seven categories of policy recommendations map out guidance across different business areas, and these are as follows:

Regulation of sharing businesses – recommending that regulation is re-assessed at local levels to avoid disparities between regional and national areas, this portion also stipulates that member states should provide clear advice on how people can participate in sharing economy activities – including on rights and regulations.

Market access – this category states that only ‘justified and proportionate market access requirements’ can be applied, as well as ensuring that both occasional and professional users of the sharing economy are identified.

Liability – this area exempts collaborative platforms from being held liable for information they hold on behalf of those offering a service, but not from any services they offer themselves.

Trust – encouraging all to continue to take voluntary action to fight illegal content online and to increase trust between users, this category also encourages effective online trust mechanism to increase credibility and confident sharing.

Information – member states should take a balanced approach to ensure that consumers are informed, whilst not imposing disproportionate information obligations on peers providing services on an occasional basis.

Employment –  expanded employment due to the sharing economy must be catered for, as well not applying EU or national law for employees to service providers who only use such platforms as intermediaries.

Tax –  economic activity to facilitate and improve collection should be recorded, as well guidance and a tax calculator introduced.

So what does this mean for consumers? Well, essentially it’s good news, as it should make it easier to get involved in the collaborative economy, and there should be much more information available. It also means that cities will be less likely to just ‘ban’ services such as Uber, as action should only be proportionate to the public interest at sake.

And for businesses, it’s also good news, as it’ll increase consistency across Europe, taking a continent-wide approach to the new sector rather than a different approach in each different country. However, the guidance is just that – and not law just yet.

Do you think this is good news? Are you more likely to get involved in sharing if the EU backed it? Let us know at @Twitter!

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Author Lex Barber

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