Gig economy and third party websites. These go absolutely hand in hand. Third party websites have created the gig economy.
The next questions to ask are, ‘what is a gig economy?’ and ‘what is a third party website?’
What is a gig economy? A gig economy is an economy that operates flexibly, involving the exchange of labor and resources through digital platforms that actively facilitate buyer and seller matching. An example of this is Uber and Uber drivers, Uber classify their drivers as contractors instead of employees. This means drivers would need to earn minimum wage and receive benefits. Employers also have to pay taxes on employees that they don’t need to pay for contractors. Uber is one of the largest companies offering ride sharing service that has ‘no driver employees’, as all drivers are contractors.
What is a third party website/app? It is a website which is a platform offering you services through individuals advertised on their website/app, generally anyone can register on the website and the website takes a commission on the service you purchase. Well known 3rd party sites/apps: Uber, Amazon, Ebay, petting sitter services…
Are are the advantages of using a third party website? Cost. Everyone loves a bargain, right? Using a transportation app is cheaper than using a traditional taxi. You think to yourself, ‘bargain!’ but you may not realise the problems that come with getting a ‘bargain’.
What are the problems with the perceived bargains of a gig economy? Simplistic answer: pay, rights and conditions. Many countries have outdated employment laws that gig/third party companies exploit to gain a competitive advantage. Companies are able to class their workers as ‘self-employed contractors’, allowing them to avoid any responsibilities towards the people who work for them. Classing their ‘workers’ or ‘employees’ as contractors/gig workers comes with many problems for the workers:
- ‘Self-employed’ contract/gig workers do not get holiday entitlement, sick pay, pensions or parental leave. You have to be a ‘employee’ of the company to get these BASIC rights, which contractors/gig workers do not get.
- Gig workers/contractors get paid per job, not by the hour (generally speaking). Awesome on the weekends, when such services are in higher demand. However, on ‘quieter times’ delivery workers on €2.50 a ‘gig’ may make a delivery, then can sit waiting around all day until another gig comes in. This means many people are earning less than the hourly minimum wage, with absolutely no financial security.
- As the contractors depend on the app for jobs, this frequently means that they are dependent on the app to make ends meet and as jobs can be infrequently or at odd hours. This can also lead to a ‘hand to mouth’ lifestyle. The odd hours can also directly lead to an imbalance in work/life/family balance.
- Gig/contractor work lack basic financial guarantees, such as job security, employment rights and/or structure around work. This is a growing source of stress which can effect physical and mental ill health.
- The consequences of having insecure work and income makes it harder to get mortgages and loans, this making it difficult to plan for the future.
- Whilst you the user are believe you are a service at a ‘bargain’ rate, the rate you are paying does not offer a fair wage to the gig worker/contractor, it doesnt make them rich or allow them to earn enough to plan for the future.
- Gig workers/contractors carry all the risk (covering the costs to maintain their vehicles, covering their pensions, sick leave, holiday, etc), while employers get rich on the profits.
Whilst there have been a number of very public lawsuits between third party websites and governments, fighting for the rights of gig workers/contractors, dont expect any government any time soon to change employment law in favour of gig workers/contractors.
The above focuses on the gig workers and the implications of gig work to them. The below focuses on the disadvantages to users using third party websites.
The dangers of using a 3rd party website. Its easy to read great reviews of apps/websites and think that your experience will be the same. This is a word of warning to understanding the downsides of using 3rd party websites. What can go wrong and what happens when it goes wrong?
Most third party apps/websites view themselves as purely a (third party) website and nothing more. They believe the onus and liability is with the user of the website should something go wrong. They believe that because the user has chosen the product/driver/gig worker on their website, the liability is with the user, as they are not involved with the matching the users with the product/driver/gig worker on their website. When you read a positive review from such a website, you a really reading the review of the users review of the specific gig worker/contractor they have hired, not of the overall website.
I looked at third party websites which are available in the Netherlands and was surprised at what I found. I found that some of the companies even offered ‘gurantees’ on their websites, which were actually made invalid by their T&Cs. I specifically looked at petting and house sitting apps/websites available to users in the Netherlands.
What you should know: None of the (below) listed house/pet sitting companies are registered companies in the Netherlands. You can easily check this by checking the KvK (chamber of commerce). In some instances, they don’t need to be registered (below a certain income threshold), however, it is ALWAYS good business practise to be registered even if they are below the threshold. If you have a problem with a company who is not registered (with the KvK), it can be difficult to take action against them. For instance, Consuwijzer (Practical advice for consumers from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets) does not intervene as its not a Dutch company and legally the police and lawyers generally will not get involved as there is no Dutch registration of the company to be found. T&Cs: Most of the companies terms and conditions are clear that the company is not liable if something goes wrong. You as the home owner/pet owner are liable to claim against YOUR own insurance should something go wrong. AWLAYS READ THE FINE PRINT AND CHECK THE T&Cs. Below is the T&C wording from a few companies websites (please note that the wording was correct and taken from the websites at the time of publishing the post):
- If Owners choose to use TrustedHousesitters Owners do so at their sole risk. The guarantee cover is provided “as is”, without warranty of any kind, either express or implied.
- Owners acknowledge and agree that, to the maximum extent permitted by law, the entire risk arising out of their access to and use of the TrustedHousesitters, and their listing of any Home(s) via the Platform remains with them.
- (c) For any loss, the Owners must first claim against their Underlying insurance where possible, before seeking recourse to this guarantee.
- While we may help facilitate the resolution of disputes, Pawshake has no control over and does not guarantee (i) the existence, quality, safety, suitability, or legality of any Listings or Host Services, (ii) the truth or accuracy of any Listing descriptions, Ratings, Reviews, or other Member Content, or (iii) the performance or conduct of any Member or third party.
- Because we are not involved in User-to-User dealings or control the behaviour of Users, Users must resolve any issues, disputes or concerns directly with each other. You agree to release Pawshake from any claims or liability that may arise from any disputes between you and other Users. As a Member, you acknowledge and agree that the entire risk arising out of your use of the Site, including listing and booking Host-Provided Services, is entirely your own.
- As a Host, you acknowledge and agree that neither Pawshake nor a Member have any responsibility to reimburse or otherwise cover you for any property damage that may be caused by a Member pet, and you hereby agree not to seek any such reimbursement or other damages from Pawshake or a Member or guest pet’s owner(s) in the event of any such property damage, in each case except as provided in the Pawshake’s Premium Protection Program.
- We make no representations or warranties about the quality of boarding, pet sitting, dog walking, house sitting, or other services provided by Service Providers (“Pet Care Services”), or about your interactions and dealings with users. Service Providers listed on Rover are not under the direction or control of Rover, and Service Providers determine in their own discretion how to provide Pet Care Services.
- Subject to Section 16 below, Rover has no liability for any claims, injuries, loss, harm and/or damages arising from and/or in any way related to your interactions or dealings with other users and the acts and/or omissions of Service Providers and Pet Owners, whether online or offline. You acknowledge and agree that, to the maximum extent permitted by the applicable law, YOUR USE AND/OR PROVISION OF PET CARE SERVICES IS AT YOUR SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE RISK.
Consumer Law: Whilst consumer law exists in most countries, the coverage it offers varies from country to country. In some countries consumer law can override a companies T&Cs ( a company can write whatever they like as T&Cs but it does not make it legal). In other countries consumer law is not as strong and T&Cs can hold more weight than consumer law. There are also many loop holes in laws, which will vary from country to country. I have found law in general (and consumer law) in the UK to be much stronger than in other countries, which is great if you live in the UK (this is why you also see many high profile cases going through the UK High Court). If you dont live in a country which has great consumer law, you may find that there is no (legal) satisfaction in pursuing a case against a company. Always seek your own legal advice, where you feel it may be needed.
Why am I making this post? Unfortunately, a few years ago I had a truly horrific experience with a third party app/website. The outcome of my experience was that I was left with substantial damage to my home and one of my cats died. The company was not willing to do anything ‘as per our T&Cs, we are not liable…’. When I went to the police, I was told because they couldn’t find the company, as it wasn’t registered in the NLs that I ‘had been scammed’. I asked what could be done and the police said because the matter was civil and not criminal, they could do nothing! They could take name of the gig worker/contractor but only after a further three complaints were made against this person, would they have enough ‘justification’ to investigate the person further but even then, it would be unlikely that they would. I sought legal advice and was told the costs of suing the individual would cost more than I sue for. I was told that Dutch law and consumer law were not made for such cases. It was suggested (more than once) that it was my own fault for not making sure the company was Dutch and registered in the Netherlands.
This was a truly horrific experience for me, which I never want anyone else to go through.
Whilst there are honest and reputable gig workers/contractors who use these sites to get work, equally there are people who are not honest using these websites and because of the approach the websites take, it can be incredibly difficult to take any form of action against the company or the gig worker/contractor if/when something goes wrong. Through my experience I found a number of other users who had equally horrifying stories using third party websites and the websites being ineffective/unhelpful in resolving their problems. As a result of the raised issues, try to avoid using third party sites. Try to use local businesses who are registered with the KvK (for the Netherlands or other legal company registries) and whose T&Cs are not made to avoid any form of liability.
The above opinion and perspective is personally my own and is not provided as advice or a legal perspective to what apps/services you should or should not use. Please do your own research to the services you want to use and ALWAYS check the small print and terms and conditions of the company for your locality/country.
The Gig Economy Is a Vampire That We Shouldn’t Make Peace With
Why the Gig Economy Doesn’t Work
Driving Uncertainty: Labour rights in the gig economy