Sharing economy is a growing phenomenon, one of the most dynamic innovative sectors within the process of digital transformation under way in the European Union. Just to get an idea: considering that 68% of adults globally is willing to share or rent property, it is easy to understand the significance of this new economic model, which could lead to an additional value rate estimated between 0.25% and 1% of GDP in each country, according to data from Credit Suisse. These data cannot be taken to the letter, but they certainly indicate the overflowing economic potential of sharing economy, which is still only partially exploited. For this reason, at a European level, albeit with delay and after numerous interventions by the national courts (see the cases in France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands), institutions have recently been discussing the need for discipline and regulation of sharing economy and online platforms.
As emerging from the report on ‘Towards a Digital Single Market Act’ by Gebhardt-Kallas, approved last June by the European Parliament, the common goal is to create a European framework that establishes legislative and non-legislative rules, thus ensuring a level playing field composed of fair rules for consumers and digital platforms.
Several months after the Communication on the implementation of the Digital Single Market was published by the Commission, it seems that something is slowly starting to move on the delicate issue of sharing economy. To get to the heart of the matter, as reported by Bloomberg, the solution chosen by the Commission seems to try and clarify whether there is a conflict between national and European standards, which may have a negative impact on the development of sharing economy and its economic activities. In the case that such conflict arises, the European Commission itself will vouch for the compliance with European standards, which are often considered to be more competitive, guaranteeing a minimum level of harmonisation at a communitarian level. At the moment, the possibility to propose new regulations or a new framework directive governing all the matter is excluded, and this is not surprising, given the unwillingness of the Juncker’s College of Commissioners to legislate.
The second clue comes from France. On Monday, January 7, the French deputy Pascal Terrasse presented a report on sharing economy to the Prime Minister Manuel Valls; this report concerns many of the critical elements of the sharing economy – such as the workers’ social protection on the platforms, tax issues and consumer rights – proposing a “soft” regulatory approach, that is the idea to find rules within the existing regulatory framework, rather than to establish new ones. And this approach seems similar to the one the European Commission intends to take.
Therefore, as the Italian dictum goes “due indizi fanno una prova” (“two clues are evidence”). Now additional regulatory developments are expected. First and foremost, at an Italian level, the draft law on “Regulation of digital platforms for sharing of goods and services, and arrangements for promoting the sharing economy” – by the young deputy Veronica Tentori of the Italian Democratic Party – is expected in a short time.
For its part, the European Union cannot afford to lose the game of digital transformation. This is why a fair, innovative – and, above all, uniform – regulation on sharing economy will be necessary at a European level. In this field, the fragmentation of the internal market would be a serious mistake that citizens and innovative enterprises in Europe would probably not forgive the already rather unpopular EU institutions