The collaborative economy – consumer benefits and challenges

BEUC NEWS - 06.04.2016

Many of our daily activities such as getting around by car, renting holiday accommodation or buying food are radically changing. Emerging business models can give consumers access to cheaper, more convenient or targeted goods and services. And they can make consumers’ lives easier if they want to offer their own goods and services themselves. But questions emerge such as how existing laws regarding information provision or the liability of each party apply in these new business models. This is why policy makers need to have a close look at this “collaborative economy” to ensure it is delivering for consumers.

 

In this latest position paper we list a number of action points for policy-makers to help ensure that all users can reap its benefits while being well protected and empowered. Most crucially, consumers expect transparency and information about the respective rights and obligations of the contracting parties and importantly, of the intermediating platform.

Other action points include:

  • Ensuring a modern policy and legal framework that allows the development of the collaborative economy.
  • Defining clear criteria (e.g. frequency of transaction, amount of revenue generated) to determine when a prosumer becomes a trader in the different sectors of activity within the collaborative economy.
  • Safeguarding easy-to-understand rules for those consumers who want to trade using collaborative economy platform. This involves clear administrative and fiscal information so they know what they have to comply with.
  • Guaranteeing users can easily switch out of and into the platform, guaranteeing data portability.

Whether accomplishing the listed actions requires additional legislative initiatives at EU level, soft law mechanisms such as guidance on the enforcement of existing rules, or potentially co-regulatory initiatives is an important element that should be thoroughly analysed.

A recent survey found that participation in collaborative consumption activities ranges from 62% to 85% in the survey countries. Surveyed consumers also indicate that the most common motivator to go to collaborative economy platforms is to save money.

Our Italian member  Altroconsumo has a dedicated webpage on the collaborative economy, including information on studies and activities.