According to EU competition law, self-employed are considered ‘undertakings’ and thus risk infringing competition rules when they bargain collectively. Whilst it is not for competition policy to address the social challenges faced by self-employed people, the initiative could ensure that EU competition rules do not prevent self-employed in a weak position from engaging in collective negotiations or agreements to improve their working conditions. Both in the digital economy and beyond, some solo self-employed might be in a situation of unbalanced negotiating power vis-à-vis certain companies/buyers of labour, leading them to have little influence over their payment and working conditions. Collective bargaining can be a powerful tool to achieve better working conditions. The Court of Justice of the European Union has long recognised that collective bargaining with workers falls outside the scope of the application of EU competition rules. Concerns arise, however, when attempts are made to extend collective bargaining to groups of professionals who, at least formally, are not employees, such as the self-employed. Any action in this field would at the same time need to ensure that consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to benefit from competitive prices and innovative business models, including in the digital economy. All stakeholders are invited to submit their views on the Commission’s consultation website until 28 May 2021.
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