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FTC Wants Comments on Uber, Airbnb, and the Sharing Economy

Are you an Uber driver?
 
Have you rented out your home via Airbnb?
 
Or is your business in competition with Uber, Airbnb or other companies involved in the “sharing economy”?
 
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may consider providing comments to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).
 
On June 9, 2015, the FTC will host a conference to explore issues arising out of the sharing economy.  The “sharing economy” is the term given to peer-to-peer business platforms, such as Uber, which essentially allows any person to operate a car service using their own personal vehicle, or Airbnb, which allows individuals to rent out their home for short or long term stays.  Due to the rise of the internet and mobile devices, virtual marketplaces have arisen in a number of different industry sectors, ranging from car services to vacation rentals.
 
Although the rise of the sharing economy has created easier access to goods and services and generated more business opportunities, it has also created a number of issues.  Consumers have data security and privacy apprehensions about providing their personally identifiable and credit card information to non-traditional businesses.  Both consumers and service providers worry about security issues, arising from opening-up one’s home or car to complete strangers.  Regulators and taxing authorities have struggled with how to properly regulate these peer-to-peer businesses.
 
As a result of all of these concerns, the FTC is working on competition and consumer initiatives, and the Commission specifically wants to hear from the public on these issues, including the following questions:
•    How can state and local regulators provide oversight of the sharing economy without restraining or hindering innovation?
•    What consumer protection issues does the sharing economy raise, and who should address these issues?
    How effective are the reputation systems and other trust mechanisms?
If you want your comments discussed at the conference, you must provide them by May 26, 2015.  However, the record will remain open until August 4, 2015.  You can provide your comments online at the FTC website here.
 
Although the FTC’s conference will focus on the sharing economy, as you can see by the above questions, the Commission is interested in a number of emerging technology issues that apply to all businesses.  The policies that develop from this conference will likely have an impact on your business.  We will monitor the FTC’s initiatives, and keep you informed about any new policies and/or regulations.
 
In the meantime, if you have questions about the sharing economy or any of the FTC’s policies, contact a member of MacDonald Illig’s Emerging Technologies Practice Group.
 
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