The Sharing Economy for Consumers

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What is the sharing economy?

The sharing economy is an online marketplace run by platform operators which connects consumers with people who have goods or services to sell, hire, rent or lease. Platform operators provide administrative functions, such as facilitating payment and managing the platform through the use of peer reviews.

If you buy or hire goods and services through an online marketplace or sharing economy platform, you are paying your money to a business (the platform) so you will be protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) if things go wrong, in the same way as you would be if you were to buy in store. Your rights don’t change if you hire goods or buy services online, through an app or sharing platform, or if you make in-store purchases. Read more about your consumer rights.

Traders are also protected by the ACL and have all the same rights and obligations to consumers, like guaranteeing the services and goods they’re providing comply with consumer law. Read more about the rights and obligations of traders.

Sharing economy consumer checklist
Sharing economy consumer checklist, by ACL
Sharing economy consumer checklist, by ACL

What are some examples of sharing economy platforms?

Ride sharing, accommodation or skills forums such as Uber, AirBnB or AirTasker are examples of sharing economy platforms. 

Businesses like eBay or Gumtree which connect buyers and private sellers of goods or supply goods for the shared use of consumers are not part of the sharing economy.

What are my rights as a consumer in the sharing economy?

When you buy from someone you connected with through a sharing economy platform, you generally have the same rights as you have when you buy in a store. You have the right to expect:

  • truthful and accurate representations, statements or claims about the goods or services,
  • all the necessary and important information that you need,
  • transparent disclosure of commercial relationships,
  • that goods are of acceptable quality, safe, fit for purpose and match the advertised description, and
  • services will be supplied with due care and skill and within a reasonable time.

When do consumer rights not apply in the sharing economy?

Your consumer rights may not apply if you buy from a person who is undertaking a one-off or infrequent transaction. In this case, the seller may not be required to comply with some of the consumer law because they will not be considered to be acting in trade or commerce. Consumer guarantees do not apply if you:

  • got what you asked for but simply changed your mind, found it cheaper somewhere else, decided you did not like the purchase or had no use for it,
  • misused a product in any way that caused the problem,
  • knew of or were made aware of the faults before you bought the product, or
  • asked for a service to be done in a certain way against the advice of the business or were unclear about what you wanted.

How are disputes resolved?

If you have a problem with a product or service you purchased from an online platform, follow these steps to help you 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.
  • Lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection if the matter can’t be resolved with the platform and/or trader.

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