EU throws support behind 'sharing economy' firms like Uber, Airbnb

Thu Jun 2, 2016 10:21am EDT
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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union executive threw its weight behind the "sharing economy" on Thursday, saying governments should only ban services such as ride-hailing app Uber [UBER.UL] and Airbnb as a last resort.

In new guidelines intended to foster development of the new Internet-based services in Europe, the European Commission said any restrictions on them by EU member states should be proportionate to the public interest at stake, such as public safety or social policy.

Although not legally binding, the guidelines are an attempt to set a Europe-wide approach to the fast-growing sector instead of the patchwork response adopted by European cities so far.

Some European cities have responded with curbs and bans on companies like Uber and home-sharing site Airbnb which challenge traditional industries such as taxi services and hotels, drawing complaints of unfair competition.

"Absolute bans and quantitative restrictions should only be used as a measure of last resort," the Commission said in a statement.

The guidelines were welcomed by Airbnb, which called them "a valuable tool to ensure a clear, stable and consistent regulatory environment for sharing economy users across Europe."

The Commission said it would use the guidelines to ensure that any national legislation does not violate the EU treaties, a veiled threat to any government seeking to impose overly restrictive measures on the sharing economy.

Uber said the guidelines were an encouraging sign.   Continued...

An Uber car is seen parked with the driver's lunch left on the dashboard in Venice, California, United States on July 15, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo