Government to carry out review of UK sharing economy

The UK government today launched a review of the "sharing economy" in a bid to understand the economic potential and social issues that are generated when people share products and services over the internet.

The review, initiated by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, will look at the impacts of fast-growing companies like Airbnb, which allows people to rent out other people's rooms or homes, and Uber, which allows car-owners to give others a life via an app.

Speaking at the Conservative Conference in Birmingham today, chancellor George Osborne said: "Every single day new technologies, new companies and new economies are fundamentally shaking up the established way of doing things.

"It’s never been easier for thousands to start their own business in Britain, and reach the whole world. But a single app can appear overnight and disrupt an entire industry.

"It can be exciting – but unsettling too. For this technology brings intense competition that spells rapid decline for any sector, or any country, that fails to keep up. These are big questions that require big answers."

The review will be led by Debbie Wosskow, CEO of online home-switching service Love Home Swap.

Business and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said she will "unpick the policies and regulations that surround the sharing economy and present a route map for making the UK the global centre for the sharing economy."

Wosskow said: "Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen the sharing economy explode into life. Collaborative businesses such as Airbnb and BlaBlaCar are attracting much attention, significant investment and disrupting traditional business models across a broad range of sectors – as well as generating a degree of regulatory challenges.

"With increasing UK economic impact, the opportunity is great for companies big and small – and for individuals all across the country to turn themselves into successful ‘sharing economy’ micro-entrepreneurs.

"I’m excited to lead this review for the government and look forward to working closely with a wide range of organisations throughout the process on all sides of the conversation.

"The focus of the review will be on three well-established areas – personal and commercial space; transport; and time and skill sharing. It will also look at sectors where there is significant growth potential, including fashion, food and personal items such as power tools."

Wosskow will gather evidence between now and 28 October, before presenting the findings of the review in December.

Olivier Grémillon, regional director of Europe for Airbnb, said: "The sharing economy is a phenomenon with the potential to make our lives and our communities even better. We welcome all steps by the government to create progressive frameworks and partnerships that can unlock this potential in the UK. We look forward to working with Debbie as she carries out her review."

According to PwC, revenues generated through the five key sharing economy sectors could reach £9 billion per year by 2025.

The sharing economy has already come under attack from taxi drivers in large European cities like London, Paris and Berlin, who argue that Uber drivers are operating illegally. It has also been targeted by a number of large hotel chains who are concerned that sites like Airbnb could eat into their profits.

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