Today the UK government threw its weight behind the so-called sharing economy, epitomised by companies such as Airbnb and Zipcar, with the stated aim to make the country “the global centre for the sharing economy” and ensuring it can compete with Silicon Valley. To do this it’s ordered an “independent” review to look into policy and regulation issues and how to create a climate where the sharing economy can reach its potential in the UK.
Curiously, however, the review is being headed up by Debbie Wosskow, CEO of — brace yourself — Love Home Swap, the holiday home-swapping startup and a company playing hard in the collaborative consumption/sharing economy. That doesn’t strike me as particularly independent, to put it mildly. Though, with the review’s remit already pre-disposed to view the sharing economy as a good thing, perhaps any qualms about who is leading the review are somewhat of a moot point.
In defence of the UK’s government’s choice of appointment, Wosskow runs Collaborative Consumption Europe, a network and quarterly event for the sharing economy, so her knowledge of the space and related issues goes far beyond her role as CEO of a sharing economy startup.
I’m also told she’s heading up the review on a pro-bono basis, so the cost to the UK taxpayer should be minimal. That’s maybe just as well, as it could be argued that the work being carried out here would normally be undertaken by a lobby group — such as the recently launched UK startup manifesto. But I digress…
The review itself, once concluded, will make recommendations based on the following remit:
- Challenge and define the concept of the sharing economy
- Explore the potential benefits of the sharing economy to the UK, as well as any risks it may pose to traditional industries
- Understand the main issues faced by businesses within the sharing economy, such as the role of insurance policies on new firms like Airbnb
- Understand the regulatory burdens faced by sharing economy companies
- Understand the barriers to digital trust
- Understand how the sharing economy can reach its potential in the UK.
However, as David Meyer over at GigaOm points out, thorny issues such as workers’ rights are notable by their omission — though, either way, if you’re a startup operating in the sharing economy space, you’re likely to welcome today’s UK government endorsement.