The sharing economy generates employment, promotes entrepreneurship and encourages innovation in existing sectors. At the same time, the rise of online sharing platforms is putting pressure on public values such as consumer protection, public order and privacy. There is a need for better protection of public interests in the sharing economy and that calls for policies that promote the positive effects and limit the negative effects, according to the report ‘A fair share’ published by the Rathenau Instituut.
The number of Dutch people that use sharing platforms (Airbnb, Airdnd, SnappCar), gig platforms (Uberpop, Helpling) and second-hand platforms (Marktplaats) has grown four-fold in the last three years, to almost a quarter of the population in 2016. Sharing platforms start small but have the tendency to grow into monopolies. After all, the larger the number of people participating in them and sharing their data, the better they function. It is that rapid growth in the scale of platforms that threatens existing public values. There are insufficient guarantees of a level playing field for citizens who offer their services via platforms and regular suppliers such as hotels, restaurants, cleaning companies and taxi companies.
The report makes a number of specific recommendations. First, the government should clarify the legal status of sharing and gig platforms. The government should also be able to establish a trusted third party to monitor a platform in a manner that guarantees the privacy of the participants. Finally, the government should take measures to ensure that reviews on platforms are reliable and portable.
The Rathenau Instituut carried out this study in association with Utrecht University.
Frenken, K., A. van Waes, M. Smink & R. van Est, A fair share – Safeguarding public interests in the sharing and gig economy. The Hague, Rathenau Instituut, 2017