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On June 9, the Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop to examine peer-to-peer businesses—collectively known as the “sharing economy” and starring travel-related platforms like Uber and AirBnb—and it wants to hear from you.
As a big fan of sharing economy businesses geared towards travelers, the’s government’s openness to consumer input gives me hope. A deeper dive into the agency’s announcement reveals that, far from declaring war on the sharing economy, the FTC seems to have adopted a, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. They’d like to see how fitting these companies into existing regulations might help the economy solve pesky problems like transparency and communication between say, a vacation rental owner and a guest, or a driver and a passenger.
From the FTC’s announcement:
“Because buyers and sellers on many sharing platforms have little information about each other, mechanisms to promote confidence in transacting may be important to a platform’s success.”
One purpose of the June workshop, to be held in Washington, D.C., is for the Commission to utilize comments and questions from users like us to become better informed as companies like Uber, Lyft, VRBO, AirBnb, etc., attract more US market share and press in their respective industries. Because these companies allow for far more—and in many cases, better—choices for travel, I for one would like to see this discussion help steer any possible regulation in the direction of helping these platforms succeed and in turn, empower the consumer.
The FTC invites you to send your thoughts to them directly, specifically on certain topics like the economics, trust, consumer protection, and competition issues that have come to light in this golden age of peer-to-peer businesses.
Their questions include:
Economics: What are the advantages and disadvantages for consumers of engaging in transactions facilitated by a sharing platform; for example, convenience, diversity of offerings, additional sources of supply, safety, quality?
Trust: How susceptible are reputation systems to manipulation by marketers and other self-interested parties (e.g., using fake or paid-for reviews)? How can the design of reputation systems prevent or offset these manipulations?
Consumer protection: What responsibility does a sharing economy platform bear for consumer injury arising from transactions undertaken through the platform?
Make your voice heard! Send your questions and comments straight to the agency via the FTC’s public comment forum by May 25, 2015 for consideration for the workshop itself. Public commentary on the subject will be accepted through August 4.
What questions or comments do you have for the FTC about peer-to-peer businesses in the travel industry? What would you like to see regulated, and why? What would you like to see remain untouched by the government?
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