Sharing economy and Platforms’ obligations
Sharing economy (or collaborative economy) is revolutionizing economic models as well as the way that we consume. The model has first appeared in the United States in 1995 with the creation of the e-commerce platform “Ebay”, the famous pioneer in the field of collaborative Economy. The concept has progressively grown through initiatives such as “Couchsurfing”, which the ” Times ” considered back in 2011 to be one of the ten inventions likely to change the world.
Responding to the financial crisis of 2008, this economy emancipates itself from extreme capitalism and claims in particular the principles of sustainable development. This new economy is however difficult to define. Nevertheless, it is possible to come up with founding principles such as the existence of a tripartite relationship (A digital platform and two users), disintermediation (disappearance of conventional intermediaries), the mutualisation of goods (exchange of pre-existing goods) and organization in community. So much so that it can be defined broadly as the economy based on the digital connection of people for the exchange of goods and services.
The success of the sharing economy is economic at first, a global phenomenon in full growth and with France as one of its spearheads. It affects all sectors of our Economy, it has allowed the emergence of real business giants (AirBnB, Uber, BlaBlaCar …) and benefits from a very dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is also popular. The financial opportunities offered to users, the central place they are given and the idea of a “rehumanisation” of exchanges are key elements of this success. Finally, the sharing economy would not be what it is today without the technological progress and the innovations that ensue from it (Smartphones in particular). Innovations that contribute, by injecting instantness in exchanges and limiting their costs, to massify the “sharing economy phenomenon ».
This phenomenon has logically been accompanied by major legal issues. Situations of vagueness, or even of legal void, which are the common trait of every revolutions touching the economic models, have been drawn gradually. So, the status of the user offering his services on collaborative sites is symptomatic of legal uncertainties around this new economy. This status imply questions relating to taxation of revenues generated on platforms or the application of competition law to relations between users. In addition, the treatment of users personal data, the competition imposed on traditional players, the responsibility of platforms for users or the financial flows generated by sharing exchanges are all areas that have also raised legal questions.
Facing these multiple and growing challenges, the French and European public authorities had to intervene. The current trend is towards an increasingly restrictive legal framework that takes into account the specificities of this new economy. A true platform right is emerging. It puts on the platforms of the sharing economy always more obligations and thus responds strongly to the legal questions raised by the economic models it aggregates. The platforms are thus subject to enhanced information requirements for the protection of consumers. They must also, as well as all the players in the digital economy, comply with the protection of personal data in full change. Finally, they will soon be invited to participate in the recovery of the social and fiscal charges of their users. The increase in the number of bonds and the strengthening of existing ones are the consequences of a platform’s empowering movement.