A fair sharing economy

The new sharing economy raises a lot of questions about legal issues, taxes, regulations and consumer protection. And we’re just at the beginning. Uber.com is starting to work with private drivers in Amsterdam. Airbnb, the website that allows people to rent out their homes, is getting a special section for commercial renters. The sharing economy is progressing further and further.

We share our living rooms as restaurants. We share our cars. And we share our things and our manpower. Not sharing anything – that’s what you call poverty.

Trust

With Airbnb and other providers in the sharing economy, it is really all about reputation, trust and allowing things to happen. But if the sharing economy is only going to lead to people dodging the taxes, the zoning plans and the regulations that normal business people in the sector have to deal with, something will need to be done. Especially when the interests of consumers could be jeopardized. Airbnb is already causing problems all over the world.

Home sharing

Sharing a home is a lot more fun than sleeping in an anonymous hotel chain where they chase you out by 11 a.m. and you have to shell out 30 bucks for a well-plundered breakfast buffet. It’s nice when people want to share their personal living space with all the best intentions. There is nothing wrong with that.

The problem is that home sharing is being done less and less often by nice people with good intentions. It’s been kidnapped by breezy real estate folks who rent out apartments non-stop to tourists by way of middlemen. Many of those who rent out the apartments do not pay taxes on what they earn.  Neighbours in adjacent apartments complain about the nuisance they experience from the vacationing renters.

It’s good that Airbnb is going to start working together with local governments.  That way, the city can collect tourism taxes and crack down on illegal hotels that are a nuisance to their neighbours. The official collaboration with Airbnb can help visitors find an honest bed and breakfast.

Fair sharing

If it turns out that few are actually sharing and many are simply taking, then the sharing economy simply isn’t working. Fair sharing is the best policy. The new sharing economy raises a lot of questions about legal issues, taxes, regulations and consumer protection. And we’re only just at the beginning.

Walther Ploos van Amstel is Associate Professor of Logistics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam