The use of online brokers is well known in the short-term rental sector but is becoming increasingly relevant for all sorts of mobility services, including private leases. Leaseurope has worked to address a number of issues related to the use of brokers and online platforms over the years, recently putting forward industry concerns in the Platform to Business Regulation (P2B). Some of these issues still have to be addressed and taken onboard by regulators, for example when the platform’s terms and conditions are not the same as those shown by the car rental/leasing provider this can create confusion for consumers.
The Digital Services Act provides another chance for topics of importance for the leasing and automotive rental industry to be addressed, including the example already mentioned, as well as other unfair conditions for consumers like algorithm policies, rankings, and fake reviews. Transparency and a level playing field between online intermediaries and service providers is essential for competition to flourish in an increasingly digital age.
In many regards, the European Parliament appears to agree with this premise. In April 2020, their Internal Market & Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) released a draft motion for a resolution which calls for strengthening transparency and information requirements within the E-Commerce Directive and moving beyond self-regulation by establishing an ex ante regulation for online platforms. The opinion of the Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) of the European Parliament specifically mentions mobility platforms and short-term rentals as an area requiring attention. Leaseurope has shared its views with both committees and is following their discourse closely.
In July 2020, the European Commission launched an open public consultation on the Digital Services Act Package. In our response, we call for clearly identifying which entity is offering the service and for further clarity on booking process and rental terms (including liability, where consumer complaints should be addressed, collection of consumer information required for compliance and service provision etc.). Leaseurope previously brought regulators and the automotive rental industry together to create a code of conduct and accompanying guidelines which harmonises practices and safeguard consumer welfare. Online platforms/brokers should ultimately be complying with these same standards if they wish to operate in the same market.