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Government-backed Sharing Economy UK trade body launches to remove barriers for entrepreneurs

In late 2014, Love Home Swap founder Debbie Wosskow wrote a sharing economy report for the government and detailed 30 key recommendations to help the British industry grow and achieve success. One of those was to introduce a trade body to regulate and support the sector, thus the Sharing Economy UK has officially launched in Westminster as of 6 March, with Airbnb, Tech City and other organisations signed up as partners.
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Real Business was in attendance at the Portcullis House launch, which revealed the new membership-funded association has 21 members in tow, including Bla Bla Car, Hassle.com, Love Home Swap, Task Rabbit and ZipCar among founding firms alongside Airbnb.

On the back of Wosskow’s report, SEUK is very much in partnership with the government, which was made clear with business, enterprise and energy minister Matthew Hancock praising the initiative at the event. “The UK is at the forefront of the sharing economy. We were the first government to commission an independent review of the sector and we are actively looking for barriers to remove where they are stopping people from sharing their assets,” he said.

With emphasise on the support for companies in the space, he continued to say: “Whether it’s reforming the law on short-term letting in London or supporting the expansion of sharing economy businesses in any sector, we are there by your side because we support enterprise and innovation, and the breaking down of old business models to help consumers get a better deal.”

During the event, a number of concerns from entrepreneurs were voiced around large firms overpowering smaller ones, the recommendation process to become a member, pricing, and government involvement all raised – with the latter point suggesting that profit could become a focus instead of people and innovation.

Patrick Robinson, head of European policy at Airbnb, was keen to jump in to alleviate fears and said: “We’re probably one of the big corporates you’re worried about. I think regardless of what our motives are, all of our motivations for being part of this amazing sharing economy sector are different. The one thing that is going to affect all of that success is how consumers feel about it. 

“Wherever we’re engaged with governments worldwide, which is many places, their initial instinct is to seek regulation where perhaps they don’t need to. If we can get self-regulatory solutions working that give consumers confidence, and keep the government off our backs that allow us to innovate and disrupt as much as we are doing, that’s going to be a win-win for everybody.”

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Meanwhile, Wosskow was keen to highlight that the points were all valid, and that the purpose of the SEUK is to work together to determine how worries and issues can be put to rest, recognising it will take time to get there but that it’s a goal the board is committed to.

Wosskow will chair the body for a year in a role that will change annually, while other board members include Andrew Saul from technology-centric law firm Osborne Clarke, Airbnb’s Robinson, Matthew McStravick from Echo, and Alex Depledge, CEO, Hassle.com.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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