Transnational Legal Development and the Platform Economy – Part 1: Uber’s Foray into Transnational Regulation
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. 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 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.