Uber: more than an intermediation service

Uber: more than an intermediation service

The emergence of digital platforms has disrupted traditional consumption paradigms, giving rise to a new concept of economy – commonly named as sharing economy –, where ownership has been replaced by temporary, on-demand, and mediated access to goods and services shared by multiple individuals, including human labour, for monetary or non-monetary gain.[1].

From an economic perspective, its creative business models have disrupted many traditional industries, as transportation, accomodation and more over, by fundamentally changing the mechanism of matching demand with supply side in real time [2]. Almost numerous peer-to-peer platforms—in the likes of crowd-working (e.g., Airbnb, Uber, Amazon Mechanic Turk, E-Lance, Fiverr), co-innovation (e.g., Mindmixer, Social Innovator), crowd-funding (e.g., Kickstarter, Indiegogo), crowd-searching (e.g., Crowdfynd, CrowdSearching), and crowd-voting (e.g., California Report Card, Threadless) — have sprung up to facilitate both individuals and/or organizations to pool resources in resolving problems.

Sharing is, above all, an old social practice[3] which is currently being expanded and redefined through the addition of information technologies[4].

Critics, overall raised, have painted a dismal picture of this phenomenon as a means for individuals    – as well as firms – to dodge proper regulations and live beyond their means, which in turn contributes to doomsday scenarios of massive job displacements and spending habits detrimental to society.

Outlining the field of public transportation, Uber is  the well – known platform which facilitates trusted transactions between strangers[5], that is made possible by instantaneous internet communication and changes in the life, work, and purchasing habits of individual entrepreneurs and consumers[6].

The service provided aims at connecting individuals with non-professional drivers: this creates economic and other value, but it simultaneously raises a set of concerns around racial bias, safety, and fairness to competitors and workers that legal scholarship has begun to address. In light of the opportunities and challenges posed by, there is a clear urgency for a systematic and thorough scrutiny of how value creation and appropriation can take place within such economic environments, while minimizing its negative impact to society. The debate is becoming increasingly prominent in the context of the use of such service deals whether, and how, their operation should be regulated, or possibly deregulated, in correlation with their offline counterparts.

Uber and similar rideshare services are rapidly dispersing in cities across the United States and beyond. As a growing number of lawsuits are filed against Uber, several states have inaugurated reforms hoping to mitigate such problems:

  • California [7] established a new category of motor vehicle carriers known as Transportation Network Companies, that do not recognize Uber as a taxi service and require Uber drivers “to have certain insurance, perform background checks, and maintain drug and alcohol policies to ensure drivers are law abiding”;
  • Washington D.C.’s Vehicle for Hire Innovation Amendment Act,” which creates a new class for services like Uber, enforcing background checks and inspections, and specifically forbidding the manipulating fare charges.

While these policies work to ensure consumer protection, they still exempts companies like Uber from the numerous other regulations taxicab companies are subject to.

The European legal framework is not very different. Since its debut in 2011, this online taxi-hailing app has encountered tremendous opposition from local taxi services, which complain it unfairly competes by bypassing local licensing and safety laws.

With opposition growing all across Europe [8], the Spanish case referred to the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) [9] in 2014 a crucial determination, aimed at establishing whether the service provided by the platform could be merely considered a transport activity, or, on the contrary, “an electronic intermediation or information society service”.

If Uber had deemed an intermediary, it would have become tougher for national regulators to limit its operations under the EU’s 2006 Services Directive and the 2015 Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe.

If the ECJ, on the contrary, had determined Uber was a transportation service, it might be subject to local jurisdictional boundaries determined by each member state of the EU, empowering them to determine the legality of Uber’s practice, greatly affecting the growth and future of the sharing economy in Europe.

The ECJ found, in the judgment of December 20th, that Uber’ service was more than an intermediation one: it observed that the Uber app was “indispensable for both the drivers and the persons who wish to make an urban journey”.

As already emphasized by the Conclusion of the Advocate General, the UberPop service has been considered a mixed service.

In this regard, the Court declared that an intermediation service such as that, whose purpose is to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys, must be regarded as being inherently linked to a transport service and classified as a service in the field of transport. Consequently, it must be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general of the Service Directive, as well as the ones about the internal market and electronic commerce.

Therefore, the transport sector falls under art. 4, par. 2 TFEU, one of the areas in which the European Union has competing powers with the Member States.

Even if this new qualification, many other question, mainly about labour issues, over the status of drivers, cannot be considered solved.

In this regard, Uber has recently won a legal battle in France. The proceeding was about the employment status of drivers and it pointed out the complexity of every definitory or regulatory approach.

The French labour Tribunal, in contrast with Uk ruling, has decided Uber cannot be considered as an employer instead of be qualified as an indipendent contractor.

These issues lead us to reflect any regulation of the phenomenon is not further delayed. However, any approach lacking of a holistic view should be avoided: sharing economy is such a complex phenomenon, which includes competing priorities, involving public, private but also fundamental rights. For this reason, every rulemaking process – as the Italian one  – should seize the opportunity to proceed with consistent but, above all, effective reforms.

La recente sentenza della Corte di giustizia del 20 dicembre 2017 costituisce un tassello importante nella nota vicenda Uber, fornendo un importante orientamento per le singole legislazioni nazionali.


[1] S. Ranchordas, K. Zurek, Z. Gedeon, Home-Sharing in the Digital Economy: The Cases of Brussels, Stockholm, and Budapest: Impulse Paper prepared for the European Commission, www.europa.eu.

[2] Z. Li, Y. Hong, Yili, Z. Zhang, Do On-demand Ride-sharing Services Affect Traffic Congestion? Evidence from Uber Entry (August 30, 2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2838043.

[3] R. Belk, R., Sharing, Journal of Consumer Research, 36(5) (2010), pp. 715-734.

[4] M. Murphy,  Cities as the Original Sharing Platform: Regulation of the New “Sharing” Economy (2017), 12 J. Bus. & Tech. L. 127, p. 1.

[5] R. Calo, A. Rosenblat, The Taking Economy: Uber, Information, and Power (2017), Columbia Law Review, Vol. 117, 2017; University of Washington School of Law Research Paper No. 2017-08, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2929643.

[6] M. Anderson, M. Huffman, The Sharing Economy Meets the Sherman Act: Is Uber a Firm, a Cartel, or Something in Between?  (2017), Columbia Business Law Review, Forthcoming; Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Research Paper No. 2017-8, available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=2954632.

[7] Barbara Berwick v Uber Technologies Inc., Labor Commissioner, State of California, State Case Number: 11–46739 EK, 3 June 2015, 43 W. St. U. L. Rev. 321 (2016), p. 2.

[8] William Louch, EU Commission Launces Study on Uber, PARLIAMENT MAG. (Sept. 1, 2015), https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/news/eu-commission-launches-study-uber.

[9] Julia Fioretti & Andrew Callus, Spanish Judge Asks EU Top Court for Key Uber Ruling, REUTERS (Jul. 20, 2015),


“Laboratorio Aperto”: an open call in Reggio Emilia

“Laboratorio Aperto”: an open call in Reggio Emilia

The Municipality of Reggio Emilia promotes a call for proposals for the “Open Laboratory“, dedicated to socio-economic development and innovation of the territories.

The laboratory is addressed to economic operators: through a public call presented on January 31 and accessible until March 2, 2018; it is aimed at identifying an entity managing – by October 2018 – that will take care of the start, development and management of the Laboratory, designed on the model of the European “living labs” . The actions will deal with social and technological innovation of the territory, and foresee the creation of new business and administration services able to respond to the needs of the area, fostering welfare, culture, education, and digital inclusion. In this regard, it will be a pole for both creation and dissamination of knowledge, involving citizens, enhancing talents, exchanging information and developing critical thinking, in order to improve the competitiveness, as well as the attractiveness of the territory within national and international scenarios. The start of the Laboratory is scheduled for January 2019.

The Open Laboratory is a public-private company, financed by European funds Por – Fesr, the program outlined by the Emilia Romagna Region and supported by the European Union for economic growth and the attractiveness of the territories (Por Fesr Emilia Romagna 2014_2020 – Asse 6 “Città Attrattive e Partecipate”).

The Laboratory is the result of a participatory planning put in place through the Collaboratorio Reggio, promoted by the Municipality and University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. LabGov played an important role for technical support, along with Kilowatt. It “will allow Reggio Emilia to revive its policies and determine the attraction of intelligence and the success of urban development processes, without generating new urban inequalities, indeed helping to reduce them “. In October 2018, the manager individual identified at the end of the selection procedure will be determined, based on the operating proposal deemed most appropriate.

The public call is accessible here

URBACT Local Group 13th meeting for the ex Military Hospital

URBACT Local Group 13th meeting for the ex Military Hospital

On January 19th, the 13th meeting of the URBACT Local Group will take place in Naples, at the Complesso Santa Trinità delle Monache (ex Military Hospital), from 2.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m..

The meeting will aim at discussing about the most appropriate management models at various levels: it will deal with the detection of the best management model for the S.S. Trinità delle Monache  Complex to be proposed to the Administration; furthermore, it will be a chance to  discuss about the identification of the different useful tools for the implementation or management of specific actions pursuant to the Local Action Plan (as public – private partnerships, programme agreements, public calls for tender and more over).


Professor Christian Iaione will give a speech about these issues at 3.15 p.m., named “Le città tra autogestioni e co-gestioni dei beni collettivi. Modelli e prospettive“, comparing and bearing in mind innovative experiments carried out in Italy and abroad.


The complete programme can be consulted here.


Domani, venerdì 19 gennaio, si terrà presso il Complesso Santa Trinità delle Monache il 13° incontro dell’URBACT Local Group. Il Professor Christian Iaione discuterà sui possibili modelli di gestione per l’ex Ospedale Militare, tenendo conto delle varie sperimentazioni innovative portate avanti in Italia e all’estero.

Sharing economy between Market and Human Rights

Sharing economy between Market and Human Rights

The 12th International Human Rights Researchers’ Workshop, The Sharing Economy: Markets and Human Rights, will take place on January 8 and 9, 2018 at the College of Law and Business, 26 Ben Gurion street, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv.

The Conference will deepen many issues of the Sharing economy, dealing with both competition and social concerns.  It will be articulated into many Panels, dealing with:

  • Problems and concerns of the sharing economy;
  • Public Interests and Human Rights;
  • Crowdfunding;
  • Discrimination in the sharing economy;
  • Sharing economy and Urban Environment;
  • Obligations and Competitions;


Professor Christian Iaione will be a keynote speaker on January 9, from 11.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. His speech will be about Pooling and Tech justice, proposing a Human right – based approach to the Sharing economy.


The complete programme is available here: http://www.clb.ac.il/uploads/8-9_1_2018.pdf

A Tel Aviv si terrà la 12th International Human Rights Researchers’ Workshop in data 8 – 9 Gennaio 2018, intitolata The Sharing Economy: Markets and Human Rights. Il Professor Christian Iaione parteciperà il 9 Gennaio con una dissertazione su Pooling and Tech justice.

Sharitaly 2017: Platforms in action

Sharitaly 2017: Platforms in action

On December 5th and 6th, the fifth edition of Sharitaly, Platform in action, will be held in Milan, at BASE. The event organized by Collaboriamo and Trailab is a chance for scholars, operators, designers, and observers to reflect, observe and share experiences, in order to understand how collaborative practices are changing.

On December 5th, three high-level masterclass will be held at the morning, in order to deepen the techniques and knowledge of the platform model.

On December 6th, there will be a series of talks and workshops organized on 8 topics:

  • Collaborative Platforms Design;
  • Territorial welfare;
  • Welfare Business;
  • Scale up of collaborative services;
  • Workers;
  • Platform Cooperativism;
  • New collaborative place and services;
  • Collaborative cities.


Prof. Christian Iaione and Elena de Nictolis will be speakers of the Panel “Algoritmo Bologna: il Rapporto CO-Bologna sui primi tre anni di sperimentazione della collaborazione civica a Bologna”, on December 6th, from 4.00 to 5.00 p.m..

Findings of the Co-Bologna program will be presented. The panel will introduce the theoretical and methodological framework of the process, describing the actions of the program and outputs produced. It will analyze the collaborative pacts approved by the Regulation on civic collaboration for the urban commons between 2014 and 2016, carried out by LabGov in collaboration with the TrailLab,  and the policy innovations dealing with urban regeneration in the suburbs and the housing.



Il 5-6 Dicembre si terrà a Milano la V edizione di Sharitaly, Platform in action. Il 6 Dicembre, dalle 16 alle 17, si terrà il Panel “Algoritmo Bologna: il Rapporto CO-Bologna sui primi tre anni di sperimentazione della collaborazione civica a Bologna”, a cura del Prof. Christian Iaione ed Elena de Nictolis.