This week on UTalk, a question from James in London:
What are the benefits of the so-called sharing economy for consumers?
Guillermo Beltrà, Head of Legal and Economic Department for BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, answers:
“The sharing economy is changing the way we, as consumers, buy many goods and services. This could offer numerous benefits to European consumers. For example, the sharing economy allows consumers to rent a holiday home or hire an architect or a lawyer in much more efficient ways than in the past, and often at cheaper prices.
“Often, these new platforms also make it easier for consumers to share goods and services much better than they could do before. For example, it is now very easy to split the cost of a road trip with someone you don’t necessarily know, or borrow a home tool from a neighbor you have never talked to.
“The sharing economy also allows us individuals to offer our own property such as an apartment, a car, or simply our time and our skills, and generate additional income in exchange. In times of economic difficulties, this is something that is becoming very important to many.
“At the same time, the sharing economy poses challenges to our consumer protection policies which European and national policymakers need to address. Consumers need a safe environment that will allow them to trust the sharing economy.
The most immediate challenge is for policymakers to understand how existing European and national laws apply – or not – to sharing economy activities. This is quite unclear at the moment. Where policymakers discover that existing legislation does not adequately protect consumers, they must act swiftly to reinforce today’s laws and guarantee that consumers who offer or purchase goods and services through the sharing economy are always protected.”
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