The platform economy has become an important consideration within the European Commission’s Digital Economy agenda. The Joint Research Centre and the European Commission requested CEPS to conduct a large scale analysis of the platform economy/ collaborative economy in the EU, namely to map platforms active in the 28 Member States and identify their size and market share based on the number of users and known profits. The goal of the contract was also to obtain new information on the collaborative economy, in particular concerning working conditions and business models. The outputs of the project consisted of a report published by the JRC titled “An overview of European Platforms: Scope and Business Models” and an extensive database of 200 service platform aimed to serve as a resource for the development of a European policy response.
The scope of the contract was all digital platforms with a special focus on the platforms of European origins as these are largely unknown, in the following sectors: peer-to-peer passenger transport, on-demand household services and on-demand professional services.
The identification of individual platforms used in the mapping exercise was based on the existing literature on individual platforms and media articles about the platform economy in individual EU countries. This initial identification was completed using web search engines, the analysis of media content, relevant literature and information gleaned from platform economy experts. Additionally, for countries in which platforms were hard to identify, we asked local platform users identified through our networks to help us identify the locally active platforms. In addition to desk research, the research team contacted all platforms with the request to participate in a short survey to obtain information. The participation rate was rather low, however, with only 11 platforms responding (a 5% response rate), many of which did not provide sensitive information, in particular regarding their turnover.
The study identified a huge diversity of platforms within the EU in terms of size, geographical scope, services offered and business models. Further, the innovative potential of platforms was confirmed, notably the way in which they employ technology to facilitate socially beneficial activities, such as volunteering or ridesharing. At the same time, the authors noted the tendency of a number of platforms to withhold information about their functioning. There were also inconsistencies in the treatment of service providers, whose autonomy in organising their work is quite limited even though their status is almost universally that of independent contractors, which raises questions about the protection of workers. The European platform environment comprised both domestic and international actors, with the latter usually being the market leaders. These platforms often operate across national boundaries, strengthening the case for EU-level intervention.
The report provided some descriptive statistics of the platforms analysed and presented key findings from the research of relevance for EU labour markets and policy making. The report also comprised an overview table with, for each platform, information on a series of parameters and some policy recommendations.