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MIL OSI Translation. Region: Germany / Deutschland –

Source: Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs at the beginning of November 19, 2020Many digital conveniences are now a matter of course for us: Shopping over the Internet, pizza from the delivery service or taxi via app. The quick access to the cell phone makes our life easier and saves us time. Especially in times of corona and social distancing, we learn to appreciate the value of digital services and work. The fact is: In more and more business areas, online is becoming the new offline. In order to keep track of the huge range on offer, we use online platforms such as Amazon, AirBnB or Lieferando. They are the digital marketplaces where we find, compare, order and rate offers. Everything from a single source and accessible with just a few clicks. In order for consumers to benefit from these offers, fair, transparent and user-friendly conditions as well as high product quality and safety are required. Platforms must therefore be held more accountable in order to guarantee consumer rights and the safety of consumers. The fact is also: the platform economy is booming and has received another boost from the corona pandemic. One example of this is Delivery Hero, one of the heavyweights on the international platform market. This boom is also profoundly changing the world of work: For solo self-employed people in particular, it is linked to the hope of gaining easier and supra-regional access to new customers via digital platforms. And from domestic help to plumbers to programmers, more and more employees are now finding their customers and consumers are self-employed via the Internet. However, this development also has its downsides for platform workers and their customers. It gives the operators of online platforms a particularly prominent position of power vis-à-vis everyone whose economic livelihood is increasingly dependent on the Internet marketplace. Solo self-employed people sometimes have little influence on work input or pay and lose contact with their customers because they are dependent on the platform. And the customers are also dependent on the platform as the central controlling actor and its conditions. This is all the more true the greater the market power of the platform. Solo self-employed are therefore as dependent on the platform as employees are on their respective employers. Since the platform operators can regularly terminate the user contracts with the providers on the platform at short notice, they are able to apply their terms of use to all providers on the platform to change again and again at short notice, also at their expense. Solo self-employed have to accept the platform operator’s terms of contract because they often have no alternative to the platform and have too little negotiating power to enforce different terms and conditions. In the event of a dispute, the self-employed can usually not have the contractual conditions specified by the platform operator checked in court, as they shy away from the risk of litigation or fear that they will no longer be able to use the platform after a lawsuit against the platform operator. Certain contractual practices of platform operators must be stopped. It should not be the case that a platform operator can effectively prohibit in its contractual conditions that the employees on the platform may communicate with one another or even organize themselves in a union – so far legally and thus without the possibility of taking legal action against it. Codetermination and social partnership are central to our social market economy – even in the digital age, where there is a need for political action: digitization must not be confused with exploitation. There is no room in Germany for Wild West methods. We will not allow the rights of online recruited workers to be neglected, as we are currently seeing in the US. Because the rules of the social market economy must also apply in the growing online business. Digital progress must also go hand in hand with social progress, rather than restricting the rights of employees. Because one thing is clear: what the work of the future should look like should not be decided by the platforms solely on the basis of market logic. Setting this course must always remain a democratic decision that society makes for itself. Relying on corporate self-regulation alone will not be enough. This is where the legislator is called upon to strengthen property rights and ensure fair operating conditions, which means we have to strengthen the rights of platform employees vis-à-vis the platform operators. Minimum notice periods and transition periods for the termination of platform contracts by the platform operator must be stipulated in a legally binding manner so that the contracts can no longer be changed at short notice at the expense of platform employees. To protect platform operators, action must be taken more effectively against ineffective general terms and conditions from platform operators. Platform operators must not be misled about their rights and obligations by ineffective terms and conditions. Therefore, the market must be kept free from such terms and conditions to protect platform workers. This also means that certain clauses in the general terms and conditions, which are unilaterally at the expense of platform employees, can be judicially checked more easily and simply – for example, when platforms withhold remuneration for no reason or arbitrarily block accounts. We also need more transparency and fairness in the evaluation – and ranking systems. Both self-employed persons and consumers depend on the fact that not e.g. Commissions or manipulations falsify the ranking or the evaluation of the offers. Asterisks or customer reviews have long determined our buying and booking behavior – and thus the attractiveness of the offers and the success of platform workers. Here, too, the platforms have a duty: They have to ensure that consumers can understand when the offers are presented in a ranking which main parameters are included in the ranking and how they are evaluated. Overall, evaluations must be “fair”, i.e. transparent, comprehensible, objective and not arbitrary. Platforms must take measures, including with the participation of users, to protect consumers from being misled by fake reviews. We want to make this legally clear. At the same time, platform workers must be able to take their reviews with them to a different platform. So far this has not been possible because each platform uses its own system. This makes service providers dependent and leads to the fact that they often, willy-nilly, remain on one platform in order not to have to start again somewhere else. As a consequence, this strengthens the monopoly position of individual platforms and at the same time leads to less competition to the detriment of consumers and employees. It cannot stay that way: Anyone who changes employer in the analog world is entitled to a job reference. And those who change their cell phone or telephone provider have of course long since had the option of taking their phone number with them. Therefore, we want to ensure that platform workers can transfer their data to other platforms at any time via neutral interfaces. This strengthens competition and freedom of choice and thus also benefits consumers. The digital economy offers us numerous opportunities and is a rapidly growing market. But the good traditions of the social market economy and consumer protection must apply there too. Therefore, we have to actively shape platform work according to precisely these principles and create fair framework conditions for independent service providers and their customers. It’s about opportunities and protection in the digital world of work. We will therefore improve law enforcement and consistently close existing loopholes in the review of the general terms and conditions. We will use the draft for a Digital Service Act announced by the EU Commission as an opportunity to strengthen the rights of platform workers and consumers at EU level.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.

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