Competition: Commission invites stakeholders to provide comments on the application of EU competition law to collective bargaining agreements for self-employed

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The European Commission has launched today a public consultation to gather views and evidence from citizens, businesses, social partners, academia, government bodies and all interested parties as part of an initiative to ensure that EU competition rules do not stand in the way of collective bargaining by certain solo self-employed people.

Both in the digital economy and beyond, some solo self-employed might be in a situation of unbalanced negotiating power vis-à-vis certain companies/buyers of labour, leading them to have little influence over their payment and working conditions. Collective bargaining can be a powerful tool to achieve better working conditions.

According to EU competition law, self-employed are considered ‘undertakings’ and thus risk infringing competition rules when they bargain collectively. Whilst it is not for competition policy to address the social challenges faced by self-employed people, the initiative could ensure that EU competition rules do not prevent self-employed in a weak position from engaging in collective negotiations or agreements to improve their working conditions. Any action in this field would at the same time need to ensure that consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to benefit from competitive prices and innovative business models, including in the digital economy.

Between 6 January and 8 February 2021, the Commission published for feedback an inception impact assessment, where it set out four initial options in this regard. The options range from covering only platform work to covering all solo self-employed.

The Commission launches today a detailed public consultation, to gather further information about the current situation of solo self-employed, and to identify the added value of EU action in this area, the likely impact of the policy options and the preferences of stakeholders.

All stakeholders are invited to submit their views on the Commission’s consultation website until 28 May 2021.

The Commission will carefully review all input and will publish the stakeholders’ submissions and a summary of the main findings on the consultation website.

In parallel, on 24 February 2021 the Commission launched a first-stage consultation of European social partners on a separate initiative that focuses on the working conditions in platform work on the basis of the social policy provisions of the Treaty under Article 153 TFEU, which is not subject to this open public consultation.

Next steps

Subject to the outcome of the impact assessment, the adoption of an initiative is scheduled by the end of 2021.

In addition to the public consultation in the framework of this initiative, the Commission will also hold a dedicated meeting with social partners.

Background

President von der Leyen‘s mission letters addressed to Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner Nicolas Schmit underlined the importance in this mandate to “ensure the working conditions of platform workers are addressed.” This particular initiative forms part of the actions seeking to address this issue.

Article 101 of the TFEU prohibits anticompetitive agreements and decisions of associations of undertakings that prevent, restrict or distort competition within the EU’s Single Market.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has expressly excluded collective bargaining by employees and false self-employed from the scope of Article 101 TFEU. The initiative aims to clarify the applicability of EU competition law for collective bargaining by (genuine) self employed who are considered undertakings.

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