The dematerialization of public services, i.e. carrying out administrative procedures online, leaves many people on the side of the road. Year after year, the subject is regularly raised by associations and by the Defender of Rights.
However, there are not only left-behinds. Dematerialization also makes people happy, starting with all those who are comfortable carrying out procedures online.
“The upper social categories, the most educated, those with the highest income levels, for whom dematerialization is synonymous with simplification and saving time, since it saves them having to go to the counter”, says political scientist Nadia Okbani. It also benefits the administration itself. “All the administrative work, the administrative and digital skills it requires, which was previously carried out by public service agents, is transferred to users, in a logic of accountability for the management of their file”continues the researcher.
Beyond these obvious beneficiaries, other players are emerging, making “dematerialization” and “commodification” rhyme, as detailed an excellent record of The Gazette of the Commons. This concerns both access to public services in general, for example to renew a document such as an identity card or gray card, but also access to social benefits. If the need to which they respond is real, the solution they propose draws a very particular model of society: you have to pay a service provider to know your rights and access them.
De jure or de facto outsourcing
What is the common point between carte-grey.org, mes-allocs.fr, allmesaides.fr and administrativedemarches.fr ? These sites are intended to provide information on administrative procedures or access to social benefits, offer to help you do so, or even do so for you, and are owned by private companies. There is nothing illegal here, at least for access to public services in general. The case of social benefits is a little different, we will come back to this.
The Advercity company, which brings together a large number of administrative procedure sites, claims 40,000 calls per month, each call being billed at 0.80 euros per minute
Since the new generation prefecture plan (PPNG) of 2017, certain documents, such as the vehicle registration certificate (the gray card), can only be requested online. Either directly on the official website of the ANTS, the National Agency for Secure Documents. Either through one of the many private sites (online-gray-card-ccsl.fr, lacartegriseenligne.fr, carte-grey.org, cartegrise.com, register.com, etc.) having received authorization from the Ministry of the Interior, which remains the competent authority, and approval from the Public Treasury. These sites are remunerated for the intermediation service rendered and by offering payment in installments.
Behind different domain names can hide the same company. The Advercity company, which “publishes websites with the aim of helping citizens in their administrative procedures”, according to one of its managers, Pierre-Antoine Moulin, thus brings together a large number of sites for administrative procedures. It claims 40,000 calls per month, each call being billed at 0.80 euros per minute.
“When you outsource a public service, it has a cost for the userslice David Lecocq, secretary general of the CGT Interior. Yet it is a service that he already pays for through taxes. Outsourcing entails a double penalty. This is what the policy of reducing the number of civil servants produces: in addition, you have to pay for the service directly when you need it. »
Some sites specialize in access to social benefits. This is the case of mes-allocs.frof Wizbii moneyaimed at young people, or even allmesaides.fr. They offer a free rights simulator – however, contact details must be left – and paid support. On Mes-allocs, you must register, for 29.90 euros, then subscribe to a quarterly subscription of the same amount (i.e. 120 euros per year), without commitment. 28,000 people have subscribed to it since 2018. Wizbii money, a service developed since 2019, charges 4% of the amount of the service for the entire duration of its payment, up to a limit of 9 euros per month.
Finally, Tousmesaides has chosen to charge companies up to 2 euros per month and per employee. The amount is decreasing beyond 200 employees. A company with 5,000 employees will pay a monthly subscription of approximately 7,500 euros. The service is therefore reserved solely for employees whose companies are customers of the platform. They are nearly 100,000 today, for 60 subscriber companies. So that its service is not reserved for employees only, the platform has also signed partnerships with associations such as the Red Cross, Emmaüs Habitat or the University of Paris-Saclay, which it charges at a much lower price.
Accompaniement vs. intermediation
Problem, the legislation prohibits acting as intermediaries between a user and the social benefit to which he is entitled. “This case law dates back to the years 1952-1953, when the question arose a few years after the creation of Social Security”recalls Joran Le Gall, president of the National Association of Social Service Assistants (Anas).
The association filed a complaint against the Mes-allocs site in 2019 and alerted the various Social Security funds last spring. Its founder, Joseph Terzikhan, who went through the investment bank and a subsidiary of the Chinese giant Alibaba, claims to be legal. Among the 1,200 aids listed on the site, many are not social benefits.
“For assistance with the purchase of an electric bike, our advisers complete the file for the customerhe explains. For the services of the Cnaf, as it is prohibited, we do not do it. We guide them over the phone. »
The entrepreneur, who claims to do “social optimization”however regrets this distinction. “Customers ask us. This is why we are lobbying so that the legal texts can be changed. »
Moreover, he argues in response to those who accuse him of “making money off the backs of the poor”, the typical user of his platform is not in great precariousness. It is often an asset earning less than 1,600 euros per month. “Without us, he wouldn’t make the move. » Its customers are “the forgotten social assistance”.
Moreover, it is not with this aspect of its activity that it completes its economic model, but by offering support for training and professional retraining. “We help to optimize purchasing power, but we do not encourage assistantship. We also want to help people choose an active lifestyle that suits them.”, he says. This allows it to benefit from financing from the Caisse des dépôts et consignations, Opcos (which finance company training) and training rights.
“Everyone can see the absurdity of this situation, but it is complicated to grasp it”, deplores Joran Le Gall who regrets the absence of political support for these subjects. Like social impact contracts, the number of which remains marginal, he sees in the development of private service providers for access to rights “an absolute upheaval in the way of doing public action. Dematerialization is only a symptom”he believes.
The fundamental problem is the closure of public services and the fact that we no longer have access to a human interlocutor
The basic problem, it’s the closure of public services and the fact that we no longer have access to a human interlocutor. An observation shared by Prune Helfter-Noah, co-spokesperson for the Nos services publics collective: “Behind the rationalizing discourse that claims to limit the subjectivity of agents in the processing of cases” hides a decoy, that of “to believe that human situations can be reduced to criteria and checkboxes ». Paradoxically, these private companies say nothing else:
“The administrative procedures are relatively complex and are a stressful element for usersindicates by e-mail Paul-Antoine Moulin, of Advercity. Dematerialization and the difficulty of having human contact complicate the lives of many people (…). As soon as a user leaves the most classic cases, everything becomes more complicated (…). We are trying to overcome this by “putting the human back”.
Joran Le Gall agrees:
“Having a human being in front of you helps you feel confident in what you’re doing, especially when they look competent. » And to add: “ These companies thrive on this aspect of public action transformation. »
With slogans like “ it has never been easier to assert your rights »the promise of substantial sums that will be reaped, human and global support and a pleasant interface, they aim to reassure.
“The subject of social assistance is very sensitive”illustrates Cyprien Geze, founder of Tousmesaides, whose clients are employers. “But we don’t want to make it cumbersome, with yet another administrative form. The application is colorful, fun. We make it more fun. It is on this aspect that we support HR the most. »
Paradoxically, it is more on this aspect than by technological expertise alone that these companies bring added value. Apart from Tousmesaides, which immediately developed its own application, Lisa, all started by using the OpenFisca simulator, a rules engine open-source designed from 2011 and adopted from 2014 within the current interministerial digital department (Dinum), which used it until 2020 for the simulator mes-aides.gouv.fr.
Why was this simulator abandoned by the Dinum ?
“ Beyond the porting conflict, part of the administration opposed to Mes-aides a very high idea of administrative writing, involving providing accurate information to users, explains researcher Marie Alauzen, subject specialist. Mes-aides is therefore the story of the failure of a modernization enterprise, because even if the site met administrative and citizen uses, it did not convince the social administrations that the simulations proposed were systematically in conformity with the rights of social Security benefits. »
The Social Security department has since regained control and offers, still from OpenFisca, a free simulation (without having to leave contact details) on mesdroitssociaux.gouv.fr. The designers of Mes-aides continued their project in association form, with mes-aides.org. But in these two cases, only a simulation is offered, not the human support claimed by private companies. And who should be at the heart of public service.
Find the articles of our series: Digital castaways »
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When you have to pay to access social benefits on the Internet
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