the uprising is rumbling on certain internet platforms

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Paris (AFP) – Jak thought he’d found the rare gem with Etsy, the e-commerce site specializing in artisanal creations. Five years later, the online seller joins the crowd who are disappointed and angry about the platform’s terms of use.

“We were drawn to the + small business, low commissions, good marketplace + side, but once we settled in, they started to tighten their grip and bleed us dry,” said the 30-year-old. , which are managed online. shop from Glasgow (Scotland).

New York-based Etsy has more than 5 billion annual sales, with 5 million users and 90 million buyers.

It recently infuriated its sellers by increasing the fees for each transaction (to 6.5% instead of 5%).

More than 10,000 of them decided to close the store for a week from April 11 for a new kind of ‘strike’.

Kristy Cassidy, a gothic and wedding dress saleswoman from Rhode Island, USA, led the offensive against Etsy’s new policy.

“Instead of rewarding sellers whose work has made it one of the most profitable technology companies in the world, Etsy is misleading us, ignoring us and taking a condescending attitude,” she said in a statement. online petition, claiming more than 80,000 signatures today.

Sellers around the world have joined his call, some accusing the platform of allowing the mass arrival of workshop-made objects, or imposing an expensive surveillance system.

Etsy Group boss Josh Silverman in Sun Valley, Idaho in July 2021 Kevin Dietsch Getty/AFP/Archive

“When we compare our commissions to those of other platforms…we think we’re being fair,” group principal Josh Silverman told the Wall Street Journal in mid-April.

“Ownership and Control”

The same anger a few weeks earlier among users of the video-sharing platform Vimeo, after a price increase, or among those of the OnlyFans platform, known for its sexually explicit content.

The online sales giant Amazon has also had numerous disputes with its sellers. According to a recent survey in Germany, nearly 80% of them said they were dissatisfied with their relationship with the company.

The logo of Vimeo, a video sharing platform, on a tablet screen, in Paris in July 2019
The logo of Vimeo, a video sharing platform, on a tablet screen, in Paris in July 2019 Martin BUREAU AFP/Archive

Uber is also facing mutinies: In India, drivers are currently refusing to turn on the air conditioning in protest of rising fuel prices and low fares.

“We are now entering a time of uprising and rebellion,” said Oxford University professor Vili Lehdonvirta, who addresses the power of platforms in an upcoming book, “Cloud Empires.”).

For him, many of these moves have little chance of success in the short term, but the prospect is less certain in the long term.

According to Vidi Lehdonvirta, Etsy’s behavior has a bit of deja vu, for example with Amazon or eBay.

The platforms create a shielded space where sellers and buyers can meet, with guarantees of safety and quality standards. And then their dominance becomes too strong.

The Amazon logo on a tablet screen in August 2019 in Lille
The Amazon logo on a tablet screen in August 2019 in Lille DENIS CHARLET AFP/Archive

Within the German think tank Iza, labor market specialist Werner Eichhorst believes companies such as Etsy, Uber or meal delivery companies have “very ambiguous” models that allow them to exercise “complete power over ownership and control” over their users.

To him, investors in Etsy – listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2015 – seem more interested in profits than the welfare of sellers, and it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if Etsy were to increase its commission further.

However, the two observers invite the platforms to exercise caution, as their sellers may decide to move elsewhere or set up co-ops.

“They can turn up the heat very gently, but if they seem to be breaking the norm or doing something outrageous, people will revolt,” says Vidi Lehdonvirta, suggesting Etsy was in this situation.

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