The first criminal decision concerning the platform economy throws a stone into the pool of “uberization”. The Paris Criminal Court sentenced the Deliveroo meal delivery platform on Tuesday, April 19 to a fine of €375,000, the maximum penalty provided for the reason for concealed work. Two former executives of the company received a one-year suspended prison sentence for the same reason.
→ CONTEXT. First criminal verdict for Deliveroo
It was following a report from the labor inspectorate in December 2017 that the prosecution decided to open a preliminary investigation entrusted to the Central Office for the Fight against Illegal Labor. Like most platforms in the digital economy, the company works with workers who have self-employed status. This makes it possible to reduce operating costs, in particular by avoiding having to pay social security contributions or paid leave… At the time of the announcement of his dismissal in correctional, in 2021, Deliveroo affirmed that this “corresponded to the aspirations of the vast majority of delivery partners”.
More than a hundred civil parties
But for the prosecution and the lawyers for the civil parties, these employees with independent status should have been considered as employees. Deliveroo is responsible for“an instrumentalization and misappropriation of labor regulation”with the aim of organizing a “systemic concealment” delivery jobs, had hammered Céline Ducournau, public prosecutor during the trial held last March.
The court heard these arguments since it fully followed the requisitions of the prosecution. “The offense of concealed work” is established, affirmed the president of the 31and chamber of the judicial court announcing the decision.
→ DEBATE. Is the phenomenon of uberization of the world of work running out of steam?
Satisfaction for lawyer Kevin Mention who represented 111 couriers and three unions. “These couriers obtained € 1,500 in provisions for damages for non-pecuniary damage”he explains, adding that this will also help them to claim severance pay from the industrial tribunal.
9.7 million euros claimed by Urssaf
Deliveroo was also ordered to pay €50,000 in “non-pecuniary damage” to the five unions who were civil parties (CGT, Union Solidaires, Sud commerces et services, Sud commerces et services Île-de-France and Syndicat des transports Légères).
A spokesperson for the platform indicated that the latter “considered” to appeal. Note that 3 million euros had been seized as a precaution from Deliveroo’s bank account, Urssaf claiming for its part 9.7 million euros to make up for the social security contributions avoided by this use of independent deliverers.
Mand Mention believes that Deliveroo could be prosecuted for the same reason at periods later than 2017 and specifies that criminal proceedings to come relate to other platforms.
Relaxation of the rules
If at the end of the possible appeals the decision was confirmed, would this call into question the entire economic model of the platforms? “Since the period concerned by this trial, most platforms have changed the rules of their relations with their collaborators, say Marie Content and Guillaume de Saint-Cernin, associate lawyers specializing in social rights at BG2V. It is not certain that the decision would be the same today. »
→ EXPLANATION. The economy of digital platforms in four questions
The two lawyers point to recent decisions in the Court of Appeal where the links of subordination between platforms and delivery people, characteristics of the wage earner, were not retained. But also an ordinance of April 6 which reinforces the right of VTC drivers and delivery people – for example the right to choose their working hours – and which, in fact, limits the risks of requalification in an employment contract.