The collaborative economy, sometimes called the sharing economy, covers a great variety of sectors and is rapidly emerging across Europe. Many people in the EU have already used, or are aware of collaborative economy services, which range from sharing houses and car journeys, to domestic services. The collaborative economy provides new opportunities for citizens and innovative entrepreneurs. But it has also created tensions between the new service providers and existing market operators. The Commission is looking at how we can encourage the development of new and innovative services, and the temporary use of assets, while ensuring adequate consumer and social protection.
The collaborative economy offers greater choice to consumers and new opportunities to entrepreneurs, but citizens and businesses must be aware of existing rules and obligations. With the Communication on the European agenda for the collaborative economy, the EU provides clarity on applicable EU rules and policy recommendations to help citizens, businesses and EU countries fully benefit from the new business models and promote the balanced development of the collaborative economy.
A 2016 Eurobarometer survey showed that a majority of respondents had either used or were aware of collaborative platforms. Almost one third of respondents who have used the services of collaborative platforms also provided a service on this kind of platform at least once. This signals that users are also likely to act as service providers. Users appreciated in particular that collaborative economy services are easily accessible and cheaper than traditional services, and that products or services can be exchanged, rather than paid for. Three main drawbacks identified by respondents were lack of awareness of who is responsible in case a problem arises, lack of trust in internet transactions generally and lack of trust in the provider/seller.
A public consultation on the regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy ran from 24 September 2015 to 6 January 2016. The full synopsis report (594kB) is available.
A series of external analytical papers contracted by the Commission shed light on some of the most relevant regulatory and economic aspects of the collaborative economy.
As part of the Single Market Forum and in cooperation with local partners, the European Commission has been organising a series of stakeholder workshops on the collaborative economy in several European cities. The purpose of the workshops is to develop a deeper understanding of the collaborative economy and thus hear from the business community, local and national authorities, as well as civil society.
The discussions are held in participatory leadership style, which helps to identify the most innovative business models, reveal the challenges of the sharing economy, and debate the most appropriate forms of regulation.The findings of the workshops show that the collaborative economy is changing the market and a variety of new business models have been emerging in Europe. These findings informed the European agenda for the collaborative economy, whose impact will be explored in the upcoming workshops.
Many European entrepreneurs have adopted a collaborative business model. During the Single Market Forum workshops some of them described their businesses and ambitions.