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dicomm to consult ride-sharing community Blablacar

dicomm advisors has secured the first-time public affairs budget of BlablaCar in Germany for the years 2016-2017. The Berlin-based team of political consultants won the competitive call for tenders of the worlds largest long-distance ridesharing community.

BlaBlaCar is a trusted community marketplace that connects drivers with empty seats to passengers looking for a ride. More than 10 million people use BlaBlaCar every quarter creating an entirely new, people powered, transport network. With a dedicated customer service, a state of the art web and mobile platform, and a fast-growing community of users, BlaBlaCar is making travel social, money-saving and more efficient for millions of members.Company Metrics

  • 25 million members
  • 22 countries
  • 10 million travelers per quarter
  • over 2 million trips available in the future at any given time
  • over 3 billion miles shared
  • an estimated £216 million saved by our drivers every year
  • an estimated 1,000,000 tons of CO2 saved over the last 12 months
  • average car occupancy 2.8 people (vs 1.6 average)
  • over 15 million app downloads (iPhone and Android)
  • 4 million Facebook fans (all Facebook pages together)

Corporate taxation: Germany pursuing multinational action

With a pessimist’s outlook, the future of the EU might seem bleak: a BREXIT is looming, the Greek financial crisis is anything but finished, the refugee crisis very well might break out again and just yesterday the Dutch voted against the EU’s association treaty with the Ukraine. Germany is not anywhere near giving up on the EU, just as other countries shouldn’t yet. However, Germany traditionally – and ever more increasing over the past few years – has been making use of other multilateral organisation like G7, G20 or the OECD in trying to push the country’s agenda.

None other than German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble has been the biggest political sponsor of the OECD’s BEPS Action Plan, aiming to cut into the ability of multinational enterprises to reduce their respective tax burden globally. The effort Minister Schäuble personally has put into this issue has not been without result. The 2013 BEPS action plan has developed into a litany of single action items and G7 leaders in June 2015 pledged to finalise “concrete and feasible” recommendations by the end of last year. The EU then delved into the issue as well with the planned re-launch of the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), for which a proposal is expected this year, but also with a number if investigations of the commission into the tax treatments of multinationals by several member states.

Recent evidence points towards a certain persistency with which the Germany pursues the issues it has put on the international agenda. Minister Schaeuble has been very persistent and just this week will present a 10-point plan against tax evasion and money laundering at the G20/IMF spring meeting in Washington. The Panama leaks are the most recent occasion that Schaueble can use as an argument and they do not figure to be the last one. Companies should not be surprised to see alike efforts during the upcoming German G20 presidency in 2017.

In a globalised world, taking action multinationally is absolutely necessary. Too long though, multinational action looked a lot like the WTO Doha round or like the UN’s climate summits. Chaotic, slow and too heterogenous to come to an agreement. This no longer is the case. Smaller and more homogenous groups like G7, G20 or the OECD are starting crack down on some of the global issues that evade any national or bi-lateral regulation and agreements. For companies across the globe, this begs a question: Do we pay enough attention to the dealings of G7, G20, OECD and alike?

Picture Credits: Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SAWikimedia Commons

Merkel unfazed by major shakeup of German party system in three state elections

More than 12 million Germans were eligible to elect new state parliaments in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt. In the public debate, the elections were mainly framed as a vote over a single issue: Angela Merkel’s refugee policy. The results proved to be a major loss for her.

Results

The right-wing and anti-immigration party AfD managed to enter all three state parliaments, winning double-digit results in all three states. In Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD even won 24.4%, making it the second largest party after the Christian Democrats (CDU) of Ms. Merkel, which managed to win 29.8%. The Social Democrats (SPD) meanwhile lost more than 10% and were dwarfed to 10.2% behind the socialist Left Party which won 16.3 percent.

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In Baden-Wuerttemberg the ruling Green Party received an all-time high with 30.3% of the votes, while the CDU, which had been the strongest party in the south-western state for more than 60 years until yesterday, lost 11% bringing it down to 27%. The AfD also managed to win 15.1% in the state, putting it in third place before the SPD, currently the junior partner in government, which fell to 12.7%.

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In the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate the ruling SPD is set to remain in power, getting small gains to 36.2%. The CDU lost around 3% and now is at 31,8%. The Greens barely managed to cross the 5% threshold needed for representation in Parliament. Meanwhile, the AfD managed to win 12.6%.

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While the State Premiers of all three states were re-elected, the make-up of governments is set to change as none of the governing coalitions received a majority again.

Impact on Federal and European Politics

These results show a strong dissatisfaction with Ms. Merkels current policy. The huge success of the AfD can be traced back to this fact, as it was the only party that really questioned the current cross-party consensus regarding migration policy, putting itself up for a radical change in coalition policies and representing nationalistic ideals. Voters of the AfD were not only disappointed former voters of other parties (primarily the governing parties SPD and CDU), but also many non-voters, leading to a high voting turnout in all three states.

The results also proved to be a substantial loss for the Social Democrats. While they won one state convincingly, the results in the other two states were devastating and put another dent into Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel’s bid to become candidate for chancellor in next year’s federal election. This could lead to more quarries within the government.

Overall, the impact on the stability of the current federal government figures to be rather low, though. There is no indication that any of the parties currently in the federal parliament will leave the current course in immigration policy, even as support for Ms. Merkel dwindles on the issue. Ms. Merkel on the whole still is in a strong position, both given a relatively high approval rating (54 percent in the most recent poll) and given the lack of alternatives. Even though all three states figure to be governed by new coalitions, this will not change majorities in Germany’s state chamber Bundesrat, either.

Yet, the elections point to a stronger fragmentation of Germany’s overall party system in the future. The upcoming coalition negotiations in all three states figure to be a first test of these new realities. This will make the country more similar to most other European countries and also the make-up of the European Parliament with substantial right and left-wing blocks and a strong political center of conservatives and social-democrats, liberal-democrats and Greens.

The most important event coming up will be the EU summit on March 17th and 18th and the question whether it is possible to find a European solution for the refugee crisis or not. The German Federal Government’s goal and expectation is clear: a European solution together with Turkey. Ms. Merkel and other members of government expressed confidence to find a solution. The outcome of the summit will decisively determine the public debates in the near future and answer the question, whether those election results are just snapshots in the light of the current situation or the start of a new order in the German political landscape.

German Consumer Protection Policy

Transparency in business practices, guaranteeing data protection standards, and strengthening consumer advocacy are top-priorities for German consumer protection politicians in this legislative term.

After slightly more than two years in office, it the Federal Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) has turned into one of the most active ministries within the German government. For Heiko Maas (SPD), Minister for Justice and Consumer Protection, an ambitious newcomer in federal politics, preventive consumer policy can be his “winning topic” among the electorate and an area with lots of political flexibility as he does not have to spend any tax money. Furthermore, the appointment of Gerd Billen, former Chairman of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv), and Ulrich Kelber MP, the long-time consumer policy expert of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag as state secretaries in the BMJV sent out another political signal of change. One manifestation of the close relationship between the ministry and the consumer organization is the BMJV’s funding of the vzbv’s office in Brussels.

Hence, consumer protection will remain high priority on the national political agenda and will also affect German politics on the EU-Level. Looking at developments in Germany may shed a light on what to expect in Brussels:

  • The installation of “Market Watchdogs”: These recently established “consumer guardians” for the financial and digital sector are supposed to act as observer for indentifying undesirable market developments at an early stage and report to politics accordingly.
  • The introduction of a right to file class actions for consumer protection organizations: The corresponding law, adopted in early 2016, allows consumer associations in Germany to file lawsuits against companies on a broad range of issues concerning privacy and data protection. Before, consumer organizations were only allowed to file privacy lawsuits in case of faulty terms and conditions.
  • The appointment of an expert council on consumer protection: The new body, which is chaired by Prof. Dr. Lucia A. Reisch, professor at the Copenhagen Business School and member of the Federal Government’s Advisory Board for Sustainable Development, shall support the Ministry’s work. At least once a year, the expert group will present a detailed report with concrete policy recommendations which will focus on the current position of consumers in Germany and the most demanding topics and developments for consumers.

In particular the expert council may have significant impact on Germany’s future consumer protection policy. Recently published recommendations cover, among other sectors, online retail and eHealth with a focus on data protection and call for:

  • Users of wearables, smartphones and other digital devices to have the right to know who utilizes personalized health data;
  • Privacy and data protection settings of eHealth devices to be adjustable in consumers’ interest;
  • Online retail to be designed in a transparent and attractive manner with consumer- and privacy-friendly design and setting.

So while the European Data Protection Regulation is to be adopted soon, Germany is getting ready for tackling the next privacy issues. As the next federal election in 2017 is approaching, data protection will also affect the parties’ election programmes, thus determining Germany’s position for the time beyond 2020. It is foreseeable that consumer protection is going to become one of the key areas of German policy making in the European Union together with Data Protection and sustainability policies.

Picture: Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband.

dicomm moves into the Loeser & Wolff Building

We move closer to Berlin’s economic and political center. The historic Loeser & Wolff Building, between 1929 and 1983 the headquarters of the 1865 tobacco-company of the same name and a famous Bauhaus architecture, is our new home, right around the corner of Potsdamer Platz.
Now we are located in the immediate proximity to Berlin’s economic center, while being in the close neighborhood to the government’s quarters. We left the historical neighborhood at the Fischerinsel.