Disrupting the City. Comparing regulatory patterns across countries, cities and sectors

Miss Eliska Drapalova
Prof. Kai Wegrich

The platform economy is said to fundamentally challenge regulators with strategies that deliberately aim for non-compliance with standards regulating the sectors, in which platform companies engage. Platform-based businesses exploit digital innovations and contract labour, with cities serving as the underlying foundation for success. However, this rapid growth of platform economy (Uber and Airbnb mainly) caught municipal government and national regulators off guard. This rapid growth of platform economy companies, such as Uber and Airbnb, has challenged regulatory practices at both local and national levels, which have not been prepared nor designed to regulate such business models. In this brief period, an unusual pattern of government’s regulatory activism emerged across and above all within countries that cannot be easily attributed to existing theories. This paper seeks to systematically map and compare regulatory responses to the rise of the platform economy in European cities. It explores how regulations and regulatory institutions respond to the challenge of the platform economy. We will compare regulatory approaches in two sectors (housing and transport) across European cities and focus on how government response (active or market) and regulatory framework (unitary or dual) affect the resulting type of regulation of platforms. This paper is based on original data collection, and cluster analysis of regulatory approached of European large and middle-sized cities. Based on tests of established approaches for explaining cross-national variation (regulatory traditions, varieties of capitalism), the paper develops an explanatory framework that seeks to capture the cross-national and within-country variation these approaches cannot capture.