The “sharing economy” is disrupting a lot of traditional industries. Here are five of the key companies that are offering an alternative to the usual business model
The so-called “sharing economy” is sweeping the world, changing the way people buy goods and services and allowing them to circumvent traditional bureaucratic systems to get what they want faster than ever.
Here are some of the companies leading the charge – and leaving a tidal wave of controversy in their wake.
Uber, the taxi hailing app that matches drivers with passengers via a smartphone app, has caused outrage among London’s black cab drivers and associations, by circumventing the regulatory requirements cabbies are forced to adhere to the world over – notably, acquiring permits and insurance and undergoing licence checks.
The company has faced protests from rivals and difficulties with regulators in several countries, as well as controversy over its “surge pricing” mechanism, which forces consumers to pay more during busy periods.
Now Transport for London is proposing a series of rules that would be particularly damaging to Uber. These include a stipulation that companies must not show vehicles being available for immediate hire either visibly or virtually via an app. One of Uber’s key features is a map of available drivers in the area around the passenger.
Airbnb, the room letting website that lets people find and rent lodging and advertise their own properties to travellers, has aroused controversy over whether its members should be subject to hotel tax, like the rest of the industry.
There have also been complaints from across the industry about the fact that Airbnb rentals do not have to meet the standards required of professional hotels and hostels.
Other concerns include whether the properties on offer meet standards of local housing law and regulations and the security risks associated with letting a property. There have been some instances of guests stealing or vandalising properties, raising difficult questions around liability.
Just Park, the app that matches drivers with parking spaces, allows drivers to bypass costly hourly rates charged by car park operators and enables families, schools, pubs and churches to earn a second income by listing their idle spaces online.
Though there have been controversial parking apps like MonkeyParking, which enabled users to buy and sell public parking spaces illegally in San Francisco, JustPark has been met with fairly little opposition, since it benefits all parties involved.
In 2013, some town halls began clamping down on homeowners, threatening them with fines of up to £20,000 for renting out driveways without first securing planning permission for a change of use. However, driveway rental was officially given the green light last year, after an intervention by Eric Pickles MP.
TaskRabbit, the service that allows users to hire others to do odd jobs for them, gives people in need of some extra cash the ability to fill as much of their idle time as they want with temporary work – from assembling Ikea furniture and scrubbing floors to making photocopies and decorating parties.
The company started with an auction-bidding model similar to eBay. However, this was ditched in 2013, in favour of a centralised system into which taskers input their hourly rates for every category that they want to be hired in.
The change prompted a storm of protest in the US at the time. However, it allows taskers set their own schedules and the geographical area that they want to work in, and TaskRabbit will match the tasks that come in to the 15 most appropriate taskers.
Food-delivery apps are nothing new, with the likes of HungryHouse and JustEat allowing people to order food online for many years. However, Deliveroo does something a bit different.
Rather than just aggregating existing food-delivery services and allowing customers to order online, Deliveroo allows people to get take-away food from local reastaurants that don’t offer their own delivery service
Once they order, the restaurant is notified via a tablet, which Deliveroo provides. When the food is ready, the restaurant summons a driver by tapping a button and the most appropriate delivery person completes the transaction. All deliveries are done on scooters and bicycles.