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UKHotViews
Saturday 20 February 2021

Levelling the playing field

Two events this week might well have a profound effect on our tech world

FacebookFirst, Facebook removed its news service in Australia as the Govt there threatened to impose charges for Facebook to use such news stories. This caused ructions throughout the world with Canada threatening to impose similar charges. Facebook was accused of bullyboy tactics. Already under threat from multiple angles and jurisdictions, this just might be the one mis step that seals Facebook’s fate.

UBERThe second event was the UK Supreme Court finding that UBER drivers should be treated as employees and given the same rights - such as minimum wage, sick and holiday pay etc. This ruling might well apply to many millions of others in the so-called ‘gig economy’. Not only are the future economics of such businesses threatened but massive retrospective compensation claims might be made. Uber might also face a £2b retrospective VAT bill because, as a result of the court decision, it could now be classed as a 'transportation provider'. Source - Sunday Times 21st Feb 21. 

Although I am a huge supporter (and user of) the tech-enabled companies that have so disrupted ‘conventional’ businesses, I am also a supporter of fair play and a levelling of the playing fields.

I have written countless times on HotViews about how the likes of Facebook and Google have stolen all the classified ad revenues from our local paper. Our local paper has real reporters who have to be paid. But then find their articles appear ‘for free’ on social media. Where as the local paper has high editorial standards and wouldn’t dream of publishing salacious, fake news or libelous articles, social media hides behind the excuse that they are just ‘a platform’ and not responsible for content. This just MUST CHANGE.

The same applies to the difference in costs between, say, a conventional small hotel employing people, paying business rates and taxes, abiding by H&S rules etc and Airbnb hosts – who don’t. From Apr 21, new IR35 tax laws are making it extremely difficult to provide personal services via a limited company. Many quite legitimate contractors are now caught out. But at the other end of the scale,  Uber and many others seemed to think they can ride roughshod over workers rights, paying taxes etc.

There is no reason why tech should not improve all our lives and, indeed, aid productivity. But the rules must be fairly and equally applied. These two events of the week might well be the catalyst that brings that about.

Posted by: Richard Holway at 17:35

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