Commissioner's Blog: The rights and rules of the sharing economy
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With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Consumer Affairs regulators around the country have launched a new campaign to educate consumers and traders about their rights and responsibilities around the sharing economy.
The sharing economy refers to platforms where people supply their private goods and services for other consumers to use, including ride sharing, home sharing and skills sharing.
With the rise of websites and apps such as Uber, Airbnb and Airtasker, consumer affairs regulators are taking the opportunity to remind Australians about their rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The sharing economy provides a new, convenient experience for purchasing and hiring goods or services at a local level. Research shows that half of all Australians are using or thinking about using a sharing economy website or app, so it is important everyone plays their part to make sharing fair.
If you hire or buy goods and services through a sharing economy platform, you are protected by the ACL, in the same way as you would be if you were to buy in a shop.
Consumers are entitled to the truth about goods or services, the supply of those goods and services with due care and skill, and all the necessary information they need to make an informed decision.
If things go wrong, you can follow these steps to resolve the issue:
- speak to the seller or service provider;
- contact the platform through their internal dispute resolution process, if they have one;
- write a factual customer review and rate the trader on the platform; or
- lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection.
Traders must not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct such as writing a fake review, asking or paying someone to write a review, writing a false review about a competitor or hiding negative customer reviews.
Online classified advertising sites like eBay or Gumtree do not form part of the sharing economy because the transaction occurs directly between two individuals or a buyer and seller. In these circumstances if the product is purchased from an individual it would be a private sale and not captured by the ACL. If the product was purchased from a business advertising on eBay or Gumtree, the business would be captured by the ACL but eBay and Gumtree would not.
For further information on your rights and obligations in the sharing economy, including videos that feature tips on how to share fair, visit www.consumerlaw.gov.au/sharingeconomy. Information for consumers and traders is also available at www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au.
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