To say that Uber, Airbnb, and other sharing-economy companies have had a tough time in Europe may be the understatement of the decade, but now, some of these firms may have found an ally in an unlikely place. Last week, the European Union outlined a series of new guidelines urging governments of member states not to ban such services, unless all else fails. “Total bans of an activity constitute a measure of last resort that should be applied only if and where no less restrictive requirements to attain a public interest can be used,” the EU suggests, so if you’re looking to keep renting out your house or sharing a car with a stranger, you may be in luck.
Over the last several months, companies like Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb have faced significant regulatory hurdles throughout the continent, becoming veritable lightening rods for controversy. But now, the EU is warning against rash action that may have the effect of blocking these firms from doing business in Europe altogether. Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness noted, “We need a coherent approach if we want our dynamic startups to flourish or they will go somewhere else.” Indeed, he added, “Europe’s next unicorn could stem from the collaborative economy.”
Of course, this isn’t to say that the EU is completely on board with some companies’ practices. Katainen also stressed, “It’s clear that the collaborative economy cannot be a way to abuse labor. Neither is it a way to avoid paying tax.”
Still, the EU’s (slight) vote of confidence should come as great news to such companies, which have been plagued by protests, tattling, and regulatory hurdles. Ultimately, the commission’s vice president noted, “We want to keep up, and keep Europe as open as the U.S. for new innovative business models, at the same time as addressing the negative effects.”