Buying and selling services on the internet can be handy, but it's also dangerous

15 June 2017

Buying and selling services on the internet can be handy, but it's also dangerous

The internet is used increasingly to offer or obtain services. That seems handy, but it carries risks. Today the European Parliament called on the Commission to regulate this new market. SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong explains: “Internet platforms are handy, because you can, for instance, book a cab or find someone to decorate your house. Uber and Airbnb are well-known examples. But when they break the rules which protect consumers or small service providers against abuses, these platforms are also dangerous. The European Parliament is therefore right to call for rules which offer such protection.”

The EP report calling on the Commission to regulate this sector is only a first step. Legislation will come about only if and when the Commission has drafted legislation. De Jong is nevertheless pleased. “I’ve worked for years to put a stop to the touts who use websites to sell concert tickets at extortionate prices,” says De Jong. “Because the websites often operate across borders, EU legislation is needed to stop them. In the resolution adopted today, this problem is at least recognised. I notice this when I have dealings with the Commission, that there is now at least a preparedness to tackle this sort of practice.”

De Jong is less happy about the protection of self-employed service providers. “Crowdsourcing is an increasingly popular practice on internet platforms,” he notes. “This enables self-employed people across the world to put themselves forward for work which isn’t attached to a particular place, such as software development. So a Dutch IT specialist is forced to compete with people with similar skills but who live in low wage countries such as India. That leads to enormous pressure on what people are paid. Without rules to limit this sort of practice, Dutch self-employed people and those in other high wage countries will find that little work remains for them. What a site like Amazon Turk is doing isn’t acceptable. Self-employed people offer their services and get assigned work according to their ranking on the platform. If for some reason on a certain occasion they have to turn down work offered to them, they fall down the rankings. The same goes if the person or company which assigns the task isn’t pleased with your work. The platform doesn’t hold itself responsible, because it’s only a conduit, and so people using it to find work are extremely vulnerable. So it’s high time regulations were introduced to protect their position.”

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