These Web Platforms That “Bleed” Small Sellers


The revolt is rumbling among small merchants against the power of major web platforms, which do not hesitate to increase their commissions.

The Etsy platform, which went public in 2015, has angered sellers who use its site.

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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 market’ side, but once we settled in, they started to tighten their grip and bleed us out,” said the 30-year-old. , which are managed online. shop from Glasgow (Scotland).

New type of “strike”

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’.

“Scam and ignorance”

Kristy Cassidy, a Gothic clothing 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 cheating on us, ignoring us and taking a condescending attitude,” she said in a statement. 80,000 signatures.

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

Other platforms also targeted

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.

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, like Amazon or eBay, for example: the platforms create a secluded space where sellers and buyers can meet, with guarantees of security and quality standards. And then their dominance becomes too strong.

“Ownership and supervision”

Companies such as Etsy, Uber or food delivery companies have “highly ambiguous” models that allow them to exercise “full ownership and control power” over their users, estimates labor market specialist Werner Eichhorst of the German think tank Iza. To him, investors in Etsy—listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2015—seem more interested in profits than the well-being 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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