Transnational legal development and the platform economy - Part 1: Uber’s foray into transnational regulation - By Morshed Mannan and Raam Dutia

Editor's note: Morshed Mannan is a Meijers PhD candidate at the Company Law department of Leiden Law School. He received his LL.M. Advanced Studies in International Civil and Commercial Law (cum laude) from Leiden University and has previously worked as a lawyer and lecturer in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Raam Dutia is currently an intern with the Doing Business Right team at the Asser Institute. He recently received his LL.M. Advanced Studies in Public International Law (cum laude) from Leiden University and has worked at an international law firm in London on a range of debt capital markets transactions.


For many, Uber epitomises the "move fast and break things" ethos of successful Silicon Valley start-ups. The company enters new markets before regulators are ready, capitalising on regulatory bottlenecks and uncertainties in numerous jurisdictions – only to enlist its enthusiastic customer base and other means to challenge regulators when they catch up. The backlash against this mode of operation has been severe, and boycotts and a litany of lawsuits appear to have dented Uber's image and plunged the company into crisis.[1] Elisa Chiaro’s recent blogpost discussed the implications of platform economy enterprises, such as Uber, on the rights and protections of workers. In this, the first of a series of blogposts, we will take a broader view by exploring whether the company’s concerted efforts to conduct operations in a way that avoids or attempts to undermine local, state and national regulations shapes the law across the markets in which it operates. This will be done by appraising the growing literature on the effect of its regulatory arbitrage[2] and evaluating whether the company’s use of algorithms, in conjunction with standardized service agreements, rider agreements and other contracts to govern the relationships between various stakeholders, establishes it as a source of transnational lawmaking within a large network of well-defined stakeholders: drivers, riders and civil society. Uber’s business practices and litigation in the UK will be used as a case study that is illustrative of broader trends. By doing so, we hope to contribute a deeper understanding of the patterns that have emerged through Uber’s local activities in several jurisdictions. In later entries, we will examine the response to these attempts at regulatory arbitrage and private ordering as well as the repercussions this has on the contemporary regulation of the platform economy. More...

Doing Business Right – Monthly Report – January 2018 - By Catherine Dunmore

Editor's Note: Catherine Dunmore is an experienced international lawyer who practised international arbitration for multinational law firms in London and Paris. She recently received her LL.M. from the University of Toronto and her main fields of interest include international criminal law and human rights. Since October 2017, she is part of the team of the Doing Business Right project at the Asser Institute.


This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on Doing Business Right based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @DoinBizRight. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.

We are looking for a new intern! More information here.

The Headlines

Landmark High Court case against UK mining company over alleged Sierra Leone worker abuse

On 29 January 2018, a landmark six week hearing began at the High Court in London in a case brought by 142 claimants from Sierra Leone against Tonkolili Iron Ore, a subsidiary of the UK based African Minerals. The case involves allegations of worker abuse in 2010 and 2012 at the Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine in Sierra Leone, including complicity in rape, assault, false imprisonment and the police murder of a protestor complaining over pay and conditions. Human Rights Watch previously reported how the government and African Minerals forcibly relocated hundreds of families from verdant slopes to a flat, arid area, thereby removing their ability to cultivate crops and engage in income generating activities. The claimants’ lawyers, Leigh Day, stated that the case “demonstrates that those companies headquartered in the UK that operate abroad in rural and isolated environments can be held to account when their operations face serious allegations of human rights abuses”. Tonkolili Iron Ore denies responsibility for the incidents against workers and villagers and claims full responsibility lies with the Sierra Leone police. Unusually, the trial will see the judge, Mr Justice Turner, travelling to Freetown for two weeks so that evidence can be taken from witnesses in person, after some witnesses were unable to obtain visas for the United Kingdom.

West Kalimantan villagers file complaint against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

On 23 January 2018, a complaint was filed with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s national contact point in Switzerland by an Indonesian community rights group against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for its failure to address complaints made by residents of two West Kalimantan villages. The indigenous Dayak community in Kerunang and Entapang villages had previously filed an urgent complaint with the RSPO accusing one of its members, Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby, of stealing their tribal land through its subsidiary Mitra Austral Sejahtera. They allege that Mitra Austral Sejahtera breached the RSPO Principles and Criteria for the Production of Sustainable Palm Oil relating to commitment to transparency, compliance with applicable laws and regulations and responsible consideration of employees, and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills. It is alleged that the RSPO failed to respond to the request for the return of tribal lands and accordingly failed to meet its obligations under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Sime Darby has stated that the land dispute has been discussed at the RSPO's annual meetings since 2012, and that it looks “forward to the cooperation of the communities towards ensuring that the eventual return of their land is socially, environmentally and economically viable”. More...

Internship in Business and Human Rights - Apply by 15 February

We are looking for an intern starting1 March 2018 for a period of at least three months, preferably full-time.

Main tasks:

  • Contribute and develop research outputs within the Asser research project ‘Doing Business Right’, especially for the blog;
  • Assistance in day-to-day maintenance of social media accounts linked to the ‘Doing Business Right’ project;
  • Assistance in organizing upcoming events (workshops, lectures);
  • Assist in legal research and analysis in the frame of academic publications.

Interested candidates should have:

  • Demonstrated interest in legal issues lying at the intersection of transnational business, human rights, private international law, and global value chains regulation. An interest in transnational law and private regulations are an advantage;
  • Solid academic and non-academic writing skills, research and analytical skills;
  • A master degree in EU law, private or public international law or international relations;
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English, preferably at a native speaker level;
  • Experience with managing websites and social media communication is of an advantage.

What we offer:

  • A stipend, based on the level of education completed;
  • Exposure to the academic activities of the research strand ‘Advancing public interests in international and European law’, and the T.M.C Asser Instituut, a leading research centre in International and European law;
  • An inspiring, dynamic and multicultural working environment.

Interested candidates should apply by email, sending a motivation letter and CV in English, a sample of academic writing (master’s thesis or paper from a course relevant to the topics of the research project ‘Doing Business Right’) to Deadline for application is 15 February 2018, 12.00 PM CET.

Please note: We cannot offer assistance in obtaining residence and work permits for the duration of the internship.