the revolt erupted on certain internet platforms

Anger and disappointment of sellers over the conditions of use of Internet platforms (Damien MEYER / AFP / Archives)

Jak thought he had found the rare pearl with Etsy, the e-commerce site that specializes in handcrafted creations. Five years later, the online marketer joins the ranks of the disappointed and angry with the terms of use of the platform.

“We were attracted to small businesses, low commissions, the good market +, but once we settled in, they started to tighten the dam and bleed us,” said the 30-year-old, who operates her line. on line. store in Glasgow, Scotland

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

Recently, it has infuriated its sellers by increasing the commissions charged on each transaction (up to 6.5% instead of 5%).

More than 10,000 of them decided to close the store for a week, starting April 11, due to a new type of “strike”.

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

“Instead of rewarding marketers whose work has made it one of the most profitable technology companies in the world, Etsy is cheating us, ignoring us and taking a condescending attitude,” he said in an online petition. today he demands more. more than 80,000 signatures.

Josh Silverman, head of the Etsy group, in July 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho
Josh Silverman, Etsy Group Leader, July 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho (Kevin Dietsch / Getty / AFP / Archives)

Vendors around the world have joined the call, with some accusing the platform of allowing the mass arrival of manufactured items in workshops, or of imposing an expensive surveillance system.

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

“Ownership and supervision”

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

The Vimeo logo, a video-sharing platform, on a tablet screen in July 2019 in Paris
The logo of Vimeo, a platform for sharing videos, on the screen of a tablet, in July 2019 in Paris (Martin BUREAU / AFP / Archives)

Online sales giant Amazon has also had countless disputes with its sellers. According to a recent survey in Germany, almost 80% of them said they were not satisfied with their relationship with the company.

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

“We are now entering an era of revolt and rebellion,” says 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 long-term outlook is less certain.

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

The Amazon logo on the screen of a tablet in August 2019 in Lille
The Amazon logo on the screen of a tablet in August 2019 in Lille (DENIS CHARLET / AFP / Archives)

The platforms create a protected space where sellers and buyers can be found, with guarantees in terms of security and quality standards. And then his dominance becomes too strong.

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

To him, Etsy investors – listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2015 – seem more interested in profits than sellers’ well-being, and it shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise that Etsy increased its commission even further.

Both observers, however, urge platforms to be cautious, because their sellers may decide to go elsewhere, or found cooperatives.

“They can get the heat up very gently, but if they seem to break the rule or do something outrageous, people are upset,” says Vidi Lehdonvirta, hinting that Etsy was in this situation.

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