Mobility as a Service, “MaaS”, is an emerging trend that is said to revolutionise the way people move and use different transport services. MaaS combines different types of digital and physical transportation services into a single mobility service. With the help of this customised door-to-door service, customers can easily purchase all different tickets needed for a multimodal travel chain, e.g., in one mobile application.
Instead of creating new modes of transport, this one-shop-stop system aims at a more efficient use of existing public and private mobility services, which would eventually result in more flexible and sustainable transport services and decrease carbon emissions. To reach these goals, Finland wants to be at the forefront of the development of MaaS and has enacted special legislation to support the establishment of new business models. The Act on Transport Services (in Finnish, laki liikenteen palveluista) sets out new obligations for transport service providers regarding the interoperability of information and ticketing systems, as well as the openness of interfaces.
We at D&I are truly fascinated by MaaS and especially the surprisingly complex legal questions relating to it. We have already assisted the Finnish government and the competent supervisory authorities in assessing the various legal issues related to MaaS services and supported in the preparation of a code of conduct for mobility service operators. The following chapters give a brief overview of the different legal aspects that need to be considered when operating in the field of MaaS.
What are smart mobility platforms all about?
As a MaaS operator, you are the facilitator of different mobility services but you do not necessarily provide any transport services yourself. Your role may vary from a mere platform and intermediary for mobility services to an independent service provider guaranteeing an integrated and seamless travel chain from A to B.
When introducing new digital platforms and business models, being transparent about the nature of the service provided and the responsibilities of each party contributing to the services is essential in ensuring customer trust. Even if the MaaS operator’s role as a facilitator is crucial in enabling the purchase of a reliable and seamless travel chain, its liability towards users is much more limited when acting as a mere intermediary. This should not only be taken into account in communications with the customer, but also in agreements between the stakeholders.
Where not addressed by the market players, the uncertainty surrounding the new business models might, in the worst case, lower the potential customers’ eagerness to use the new services.
Passenger rights, passenger rights, passenger rights
Let’s imagine you are soon on your way to a long-awaited holiday. Before and during the journey, you will need to receive necessary information on possible changes to your trip. You probably want to know if the schedule has been changed and how this affects the other segments of the travel chain. If you require extra assistance, the service providers need to take care that the accessibility is secured during your whole journey – but who is responsible for the transfer between the airport and the bus station? If your flight is delayed, you are entitled to compensation – but what happens to the rental car booked through a MaaS service you could not pick up because of the delay?
When speaking about MaaS and passenger rights, it is essential to have a good grip on especially consumer protection legislation and various laws regarding different forms of transportation. They all include several provisions on passenger rights. However, the legislation has not been prepared from the perspective of MaaS and, therefore, there are several shortcomings with respect to travel chains.
To guarantee the rights of passengers and a successful travel chain, it is therefore essential for the parties of a travel chain to be aware of their role within the travel chain and agree on which practical arrangements will allow information to be exchanged between stakeholders and finally delivered to the passenger during the entire life cycle of the travel chain. When you have done your homework with the legal issues, it is easier to enter the new market as reliable and potential player.
As usual, in a B2B context the mutual liabilities of the parties acting in a MaaS travel chain may be agreed on rather freely. However, the abovementioned passenger rights should be borne in mind as the legal position of a passenger may not be undermined. Hence, the parties may not mutually agree on such limitations to their liability that would ignore or waive the passenger rights set out in legislation.
Protecting passenger privacy
Securing the privacy of users is essential in a context where passenger and travel data is shared between different stakeholders. In addition to passenger rights and liabilities, a MaaS stakeholder must therefore have a thorough understanding of privacy issues.
As personal data is regularly processed, shared and refined within the travel chains, stakeholders must comply with data protection regulations. The definition of personal data is surprisingly extensive, and most of the data processed within the travel chains is considered to be personal data. This should be recognised already in the planning phase of the business. It is essential for the stakeholders to understand their role either as data controllers or data processors, because these roles involve various liabilities and obligations which may differ from each other.
The openness of interfaces and interoperability of transport systems are essential factors in forming the future of mobility. Enhancing digitalisation and encouraging different modes of transport to work together seamlessly will hopefully not only facilitate the achievement of climate goals, but also offer new and intriguing business opportunities for both traditional and new players in the transport sector.