Sharing economy platforms

The sharing economy, also known as the peer-to-peer or collaborative economy, is an online marketplace that connects consumers with people who have goods or services to sell, hire, rent or lease. It includes platforms like Airbnb and Uber.

Sharing economy videos

NSW Fair Trading has developed a series of educational videos that inform consumers and businesses of their rights and responsibilities in the sharing economy. They focus on five main topics are: remedies, cancellations, disputes, advertising and reviews. View the videos on our YouTube channel.

Benefits to consumers

The sharing economy has a number of benefits, including:

  • the opportunity to buy from individuals and businesses
  • the advantage of understanding other consumers’ experiences through the platforms’ ratings and reviews functions
  • being able to find products or services that better suit your specific needs or preferences
  • potentially cheaper goods and services.

Understand your rights

When you buy from someone on a sharing economy platform, 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
  • services will be supplied with due care and skill and within a reasonable time.

These rights might not apply if you buy from a person who selling something as a one-off. In this case, the seller may not be required to comply with some of the consumer law because they are not considered to be acting in trade or commerce.

If things go wrong, 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 customer review and rate the trader on the platform
  • lodge a complaint with the consumer affairs agency in your state or territory.

Tips for using sharing economy services

Here are some tips to help you use sharing platforms safely.

Know who you’re dealing with

In most cases, you will deal with both the business or individual providing the product or service and the platform connecting you to them. Make sure you understand the role each party plays in your experience, and that you know who to contact if there’s a problem.

Understand and utilise reviews and ratings

Sharing economy platforms often show reviews and ratings. Make sure you check how the review system works – is it moderated? Are any reviews removed? Are there processes to detect fake reviews? Are reviews listed in the order that they are received? How are ratings calculated?

Do your research

Some platforms offer lots of information to help with your purchase – such as cost, photographs, location, reviews, ratings and amenities. Make sure you carefully read all the available information so you can make an informed decision.

Check you are protected

Some platforms will offer you protection if things go wrong. Make sure you understand what you’re covered for – and what you’re not. If in doubt, ask the platform. These protections are an in addition to your consumer guarantee rights.

Understand pricing

Some platforms may charge higher amounts during peak time.  There may also be penalties for cancelling a service. Understand how the pricing works before you sign up to ensure you aren’t caught out.

Work out the total cost

Don’t just rely on the headline price. There may be additional fees that depend on length of use or stay, such as booking fees or cleaning fees. Make sure you understand the final total cost before committing.

Know your consumer rights

Remember, you have rights under the Australian Consumer Law. Sharing platforms must make sure they do not mislead or deceive you. Go to the advertising and pricing page on our website for more information.

Watch out for scams

Be aware of how scams operate and how to protect yourself. Don’t arrange payment to a trader outside of the platform, as this is how scammers operate.

Making a consumer complaint

If you’ve been misled by a business, individual or platform operator in the sharing economy, lodge a complaint with us online or call 13 32 20.

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