Recasting the Regulatory State? Comparing the patterns of regulating platform companies across European cities and sectors


The rise of the platform economy presents a fundamental challenge to policymakers. Larger cities, in particular, have to deal with emerging problems created by the rise of platform companies, such as Uber, Airbnb or E-Scooter providers. Responses to this challenge have varied, not just cross-nationally but, more significantly, across sectors and subnational levels, including cities. In view of the differentiated responses, this project explores how sub-national governments and administrations of larger cities have adapted to the rise of the platform economy. In particular, this project investigates European sub-national regulation of the platform economy in the transport and housing sectors. It aims at mapping, comparing and explaining how states and cities have adapted to the rise of the platform economy. We seek to understand how regulatory challenges have re-cast the regulatory state and its normative foundations. This study is particularly interested in the platform economy’s impact on regulatory standards and enforcement practices.

To achieve these aims, the project is structured in four separate but interlinked work packages: 1) WP1: the mapping of regulatory patterns in the transport (ride-hailing) and housing (apartment-sharing) sectors in 30 European countries at the subnational level. Similarities and differences will be identified and compared with the expectations derived from the literature on national regulatory styles. 2) WP2: a statistical analysis of (institutional and political) determinants of regulatory patterns with a sample of about 200 larger cities is the task of the second work package. 3) WP3: the work package explores enforcement practices in a sample of 10 cities. A particular focus will be placed on the role of administrative capacities in shaping enforcement styles. 4) WP4: the study turns to understanding how ‘public value’ is conceived and framed when cities regulate digital businesses. Based on the empirical findings from the first three work packages, a theoretical contribution to the field of regulation in the digital age will be developed.

The project contributes significantly to comparative public policy research: empirically, by building the first comparative database of the sub-national and local regulatory styles of the platform economy in about 200 European cities in two sectors; conceptually, by combining the literatures on national regulatory styles, political economy and multi-level governance; by innovative mixed-methods analysis and with a theoretical contribution to the development of the regulatory state in the digital age.


Project Management
Prof. Dr. Kai Wegrich (Hertie School)