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 – December 2017 - 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. More...

Regulating the Gig Economy: A Workers’ Rights Perspective - By Elisa Chiaro

Editor’s Note: Elisa Chiaro is a legal consultant focussing on Business and Human Rights and International Criminal Law. In 2016 she completed an LL.M. at SOAS, University of London. Before that she worked for five years as international corporate lawyer both in Italy and UK. She is admitted to the Bar in Italy.


1.      Introduction

In current discourse, the most pressing issues concerning human rights and business are often associated with the developing countries to which manufacturing is outsourced. However, the “western world” also faces new challenges as far as workers’ rights are concerned.

It is cheap and convenient for people to book a car ride or order their favourite takeaway meal at a few swipes of their smartphone. App-based service companies are thus very popular among consumers – and are consequently flourishing. Conversely, some doubts have been cast on the fairness of the working conditions of people contracted by these companies. A central issue in this respect relates to the status of their workers, who on paper are self-employed, but in reality are subject to the control of the company, a condition which clashes with being independent. This post aims firstly to analyse the labour conditions of gig economy workers in Europe, with a focus on some of the main service platforms, namely Uber, Deliveroo, Foodora, and Hermes Parcels: the majority of these companies, Uber in particular, are transnational, operating in many national markets and adopting the same business model based on flexible work and lack of security for workers in each market. Secondly, it will scrutinise how National and European institutions and courts are augmenting gig economy workers’ conditions for the better. The issue is crucial in the UK, especially following September’s decision by Transport of London (“TFL”) to reject Uber’s application for a new London license, but legal disputes have also started in other countries (in, among others, the UK, Italy and the USA). The UK Parliament is also discussing the matter, and the EU Commission has started a round table with trade unions and employers to find new solutions to address the issue. More...