Those web platforms that “bleed white” small sellers


The revolt resounds among small traders against the power of large web platforms, which do not hesitate to increase their commissions.

Going public in 2015, the Etsy platform has angered sellers using its site.

Getty Images via AFP

Jak thought he found the rare gem on Etsy, an e-commerce site that specializes in handcrafted creations. Five years later, the online seller joins the group of those disappointed and angry with the platform’s terms of use. “We were drawn to the ‘small businesses, low commissions, good market’ side, but once we settled in, they started tightening their grip and bleeding us,” said the 30-year-old businessman. Glasgow (Scotland) store.

New type of “strike”

New York-based Etsy has over 5 billion annual sales, with 5 million users and 90 million shoppers. It recently infuriated its sellers by increasing the fees charged on each transaction (to 6.5% instead of 5%). More than 10,000 of them have decided to close their doors for a week, starting April 11, for a new type of “strike”.

“Scam and Ignorance”

Kristy Cassidy, a gothic and wedding dress saleswoman from Rhode Island, has led the charge against the new Etsy policy. “Instead of rewarding the sellers whose work has made it one of the most profitable tech companies in the world, Etsy is deceiving us, ignoring us and adopting a condescending attitude,” she said in a statement. 80,000 signatures.

Sellers around the world joined in its call, some accusing the platform of allowing the mass arrival of objects made in workshops or imposing an expensive surveillance system. “When we compare our commissions with those of other platforms… we think we are fair,” group head Josh Silverman replied in mid-April to the Wall Street Journal.

Other platforms also targeted

The same anger a few weeks earlier among users of the video-sharing platform Vimeo, following a price increase, or among those of the OnlyFans platform, known for its sexually explicit content. Online retailer Amazon has also had numerous disputes with its sellers. According to a recent survey in Germany, almost 80% of them said they were dissatisfied with their relationship with the company.

Uber is also facing riots: In India, drivers are refusing to turn on the air conditioning to protest rising gas prices and low fares.


“We are entering a period of revolt and rebellion,” says Vili Lehdonvirta, a professor at the University of Oxford who attacks 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 in the long term the outlook is less certain.

According to Vidi Lehdonvirta, Etsy’s behavior has a certain air of déjà vu, on Amazon or eBay for example: the platforms create a protected space where sellers and buyers can meet, with guarantees in terms of safety and quality standards. And then your dominance becomes very strong.

“Ownership and Oversight”

Companies like Etsy, Uber or food delivery companies have “very ambiguous” models that allow them to exercise “complete power of ownership and surveillance” over their users, estimates labor market expert Werner Eichhorst at the German think-tank Iza. To him, Etsy investors — listed since 2015 on the New York Stock Exchange — seem more interested in profits than the well-being of sellers, and it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if Etsy raised its commission even further.

The two observers, however, urge platforms to be cautious, because their sellers may decide to go elsewhere or set up co-ops. “They manage to turn up the heat very gently, but if they seem to break the norm or do something outrageous, people revolt,” says Vidi Lehdonvirta, hinting that Etsy was in that situation.


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