The UK can lead the growing sharing economy, says independent report
By Victoria Read
The UK can lead the growing sharing economy, says independent report
26 Nov 2014 - Delany & Co

Amid a great deal of twitter activity and news coverage, the much anticipated report on the Sharing Economy by Debbie Wosskow – “Unlocking the Sharing Economy” – has been published today, with some potentially very pertinent recommendations for policy makers, regulators and industry alike.

Wosskow, who is Love Home Swap’s CEO, was asked back in October this year to review the new economy by the UK’s Department for Business and Innovation (BIS), in light of increasing interest in the movement from proponents and critics alike, and with key industry players, such as Airbnb and Uber becoming household names. Here’s a very brief overview of what it says.

The headline news is that Wosskow believes that the UK has the opportunity to become a leading sharing economy hub, if (of course) it follows the report’s recommendations. According to PWC the economy could be worth 9bn to the UK by 2025, so how government chooses to respond is vital. Rather than trying to cover the myriad sectors that “sharing” is revolutionising, the report chooses to focus on the main three – space and accommodation, tasks, time and skills, and transport – as well as taking a brief look at a few other areas where sharing might take off.

It provides a neat summary of the considerable potential benefits of the sharing economy, both at a macro and micro-level – more sustainable and economical use of existing resources, enabling greater microentrepreneurship, more flexible working and additional income for “sharers”, and a more cost-effective, community-focused consumer experience for “users”. The report also touches on the potential downsides of the sharing economy – a lack of trust between users and of the sharing platforms themselves; no clarity around workers’ rights and low wages for those using the platforms to “share” their skills and a lack of clarity around how consumer protection regulations apply when the line between “professional” and “amateur” services is blurred.

The report’s recommendations are aimed at tackling these risks, as well at creating the policy and regulatory environment needed for these businesses to thrive in the the UK and reach the 9bn potential. A highlight of these recommendations include:

Establishing a sharing economy trade association, with the UK potentially being well placed to host an EU organisation. The trade body UKShareCo has already commented that it’s thrilled at this recommendation.

The creation of a kitemark, through the trade association, to establish minimum standards on insurance, dispute resolution, privacy and unbiased user reviews for example.

There should be joint insurance coverage for the industry, an action that can already be ticked off, with the insurers’ trade association BIBA launching guidance on the sharing economy today as part of the review.

Some sector specific recommendations including: Proportionate regulation for short-term lets regardless of whether they are offered by a traditional or sharing economy providers; Skill sharing platforms should agree to ensure workers are paid at least the Living Wage; Drivers that have undergone appropriate safeguarding checks should be allowed to make a profit from ridesharing.

The creation of an innovation lab for the sharing economy, run by Nesta and Innovate UK.

Better measurement of the industry, through the Office of National Statistics.

Tax guidance for sharers, from HMRC.

Government will respond early next year, with key industry players also now reflecting on how they will react.

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