Uber law and awareness by design. An empirical study on online platforms and dehumanised negotiations

Article English OPEN
Noto La Diega, Guido (2016)
  • Publisher: Larcier
  • Subject: M100 | M200 | M900

This article sheds light on the main consumer law aspects of the sharing economy through an empirical analysis of online platforms. Given the recent European consultation with the purpose of understanding (whether, or, more likely) how to regulate platforms, it is critical that consumer law considerations will be part of future regulations. For instance, it is hardly acceptable that the consumer acts in the belief that the contractual party (thus the potentially liable party) is the platform, but in reality the former disclaims any responsibility and claims to be a mere intermediary , which only seldom actually is. After a critical analysis of the Italian legislative proposal on platforms and collaborative economy, the articles moves on to illustrate the use case of Uber, the $60 billion ride-hailing platform, which is acting at the margin of existing laws, thus giving rise to protests and debate around the world. After an assessment of the Italian ruling preventing Uber to provide the UberPop service in Italy, the use case is the perfect tool to show the main reasons for concern of consumers is the lack of awareness of their rights and obligations. This articles deals with two factors of the said lack: the contractual quagmire and the corporate labyrinth. In the conclusions, it is presented an ambitious, albeit feasible, practical proposal. It is suggested the development of a mobile app that helps the consumers to assess the legal quality of the contracts they are entering in order to access the services offered through the platform. At the same time, this app, called 'Awareness by Design', should contribute to raise awareness in consumers, thus creating critical mass and making platforms understand that trust, transparency, and accountability are competitive advantages.\ud \ud Cet article met en lumière les principaux aspects de droit de la consommation de l'écono-mie de partage à travers une analyse empirique des plates-formes en ligne. Compte tenu de la consultation européenne récente dans le but de comprendre (si, ou, plus probablement) la façon de réglementer les plates-formes, il est essentiel que les considérations de droit de la consommation fassent partie des futurs règlements. Par exemple, il est difficilement acceptable que le consommateur agisse dans la conviction que le cocontractant (donc la partie potentiel-lement responsable) est la plate-forme, alors qu'en réalité, celle-ci décline toute responsabilité et prétend être un simple intermédiaire. Après une analyse critique de la proposition législative italienne sur les plates-formes et de l'économie collaborative, les articles illustrent le cas d'uti-lisation de Uber, la plate-forme de covoiturage à 60 milliards de dollars, qui agit à la marge des lois en vigueur, ce qui donne lieu à des protestations et des débats autour du monde. Après une évaluation de la décision italienne empêchant Uber de fournir le service de UberPop en Ita-lie, l'examen de ce régime est l'outil idéal pour exposer que le principal motif de préoccupation des consommateurs concerne la connaissance de leurs droits et obligations. Cet article traite de deux facteurs qui sont à la base de cette difficulté : la multitude des contrats et le labyrinthe des entreprises. Dans les conclusions, il sera présenté une proposition pratique ambitieuse, mais réalisable. Il sera suggéré de développer une application mobile qui aide les consommateurs évaluer la qualité juridique des contrats qu'ils souscrivent dans le but d'accéder aux services offerts par la plate-forme. Dans le même temps, cette application, appelée « conscience by Design », devrait contribuer à sensibiliser les consommateurs, créant ainsi une masse critique et à faire comprendre aux plates-formes que la confiance, la transparence et la responsabilité sont des avantages concurrentiels.
  • References (72)
    72 references, page 1 of 8

    2 European Commission, Public consultation on the regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy-, 24  Septem ber 2015, https://ec.europa.eu/digistianlg-lem-arket/en/news/publicco-nsultatiorne-gulatoryenvironmentp-latformso-nlinei-ntermediarieds-ataa-nd-cloud. All the URLs of this paper have been accessed on 24 April 2016. The consultation was subject to many criticism, such as EDRI and Access, Key points for a successful consultation on internet platforms, Letter to the European Commission, 4  September 2015, https://edri.org/files/platforms_consultation20150904.pdf. Cf.  S.  McLean and M.  Samavi, “EC's consultation on online platforms proves controversial”, E-Commerce Law & Policy 2015, 17(12), 6-8.

    3 In this respect, a useful document which has been recently leaked is a joint letter from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuan-ia, Luxem bourg, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and United Kingdom to the Minister of Economic Affairs of The Netherlands in preparation of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energ-y and Com petitiveness Councimleetings 26  May 2016. The full text is available at https://regmedia. co.uk/2016/05/23/dsm-jointl-etter.pdf. The fourteen Member States stress that “[a]lternatives to regulation should be investigated rather than adding new burdensome regulation of businesses. Any regulatory proposals would have to be considered carefully”. It would seem that this view is shared by the European Commission.

    4 House of Lords EU Internal Market CSoumb-mittee, 17  September 2015, www.parliament. uk/business/committees/committeeas--z/lords-elect/eui-nternaml-arkets-ubcommittee/newsparliament2-015/onlinep-latformisn-quiryl-aunch, and Autorità per le Garanzie nelle -Comuni cazioni, 11  November 2015, www.agcom.it/documents/10179/2185185/Delibera-+153-57 CONS/9de98850-5624-404d-ba47-2c8ca6533556?version=1.0.

    5 See House of Lords Select Committee on European Union, 10th Report of Sess-i2o0n162,0O15nline Platforms and the Digital Single Market, April 2016, available at www.publications.parliament.uk/ pa/ld201516/ldselect/ldeucom/129/129.pdf, and Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni, Allegato A alla delibera n. 165/16/CONS I Consummer Communications Services, May 20-16, avail able at www.agcom.it/documents/10179/5054337/Allegat-o6+-220916/9d7168c6-6205-47e7- a2d9-23cccdc1df59?version=1.0. However, the latter is just the first of a forthcoming number of reports; it is limited to the messaging mobiles apps.

    6 See article 22 of the draft statute on a digital Republic on the “Loyalty of platforms” which amends article L. 11-15-1 of theCode de la consommation (www.assembleen-ationale.fr/14/projets/pl3318. asp). The projet de loi pour une République numérique, output of an extensive online consultation, has been adopted by thAessemblée nationale on 26  January 2016 (first reading). The discussion in séance publique is set to take place on 26, 27, 28  April and 3  May 2016. The second alinéa of article L. 11-15-1 will read:to“ut opérateur de plateforme en ligne est tenu de délivrer au consommateur une information loyale, claire et transparente sur les conditions générales d'utilisation du service d'intermédiation qu'il propose et sur les modalités de référencement, de classement et de déréférencement des contenus, biens ou

    12 Cf. I. Graef, “Market definition and market power in data: the case of online plWaotrflodrCmoms”-, petition 2015, 38(4), 473-505.

    13 K.  Dervodeja et al., The Sharing Economy Accessibility Based Business Models for Peer-to-Peer Markets, European Commission Business Innovation Observatory, September 2013.

    14 COM(2016)288, para. 2.

    15 COM(2016)288, para. 5(iii).

    16 Ibid.

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