Today, the European Commission (EC) presented new guidelines for Member States to help get consumers, businesses and public authorities engaged in the collaborative economy. As part of the Single Market Strategy, the EC seeks to establish a cohesive framework to promote collaborative business models in the EU. These models cover a broad range of services such as car sharing platforms, holiday rental offers or home-cooking projects. The presented agenda address how existing EU law should be applied to this dynamic sector and clarifies the following key issues faced by market actors and public authorities:
- What type of market access requirements can be imposed? Collaborative platforms should not be obliged to obtain business authorizations or licenses if they merely act as intermediaries between consumers and those offering actual services (e.g. transport or accommodation service).
- Who is liable if a problem arises? Collaborative platforms can be exempted from being held liable for information stored on behalf of a third party offering a service. However, platforms should be held liable for any services they themselves offer (e.g. payment services). Moreover the EC encourages platforms to continue taking action against illegal online-content while strengthening consumer trust.
- How does EU consumer law protect users? Member States are to ensure that consumers enjoy a high level of protection from unfair business practices, while avoiding inadequate obligations for private individuals who only provide services on an occasional basis.
- Which tax rules apply? Service providers in the collaborative economy and platforms are subject to relevant taxes just like other market actors (i.e. tax on personal income, corporate income and Value Added Tax). Member States are encouraged to further simplify and clarify the application of tax rules to the collaborative economy.
With this official Communication, Member States are invited to review and where appropriate revise existing legislation according to this guidance. Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumer Organization BEUC, commented on this agenda as follows: "The collaborative economy is shaking up the consumer experience and paves the way for new opportunities in many markets. Consumers are keen to participate in these new consumption models. We agree with the Commission that the benefits of this booming sector need to be embraced. (…) The collaborative economy also opens the door for consumers to offer services themselves. For this to work fairly, clear rules are needed so consumers know when they are considered traders or not, and what their obligations are."
Source: European Commission