At this stage in the game, there’s no stopping the sharing economy, but organizations and government in the UK and China are working to create a safer, more responsible space that allows consumers, businesses and investors to fully take advantage of its benefits through the rolling out of greater regulation.
Back in 2016, UK trade body Sharing Economy UK (SEUK) launched its TrustSeal — the world’s first kitemark for the sharing economy in an effort to make the industry a safer space for consumers.
A year later home sharing platform Airbnb, ticketing site StubHub, pet-sitting and travel website TrustedHousesitters and car rental company HiyaCar are the first companies to receive SEUK’s sharing economy kitemark.
The TrustSeal is an independently awarded kitemark and is awarded only to sharing economy companies after a rigorous application process that weighs them against eight principles of Good Practice, covering identify verification, criminal and background checks, customer help and support, secure payments, data protection, amongst others, demonstrating to consumers that they can be trusted. Applications are assessed by an advisory panel of independent industry experts.
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“For the sharing economy to reach its full potential, it must continue to build trust amongst a growing customer base and that’s the objective of the TrustSeal,” said Richard Laughton, Chair of Sharing Economy UK and CEO of Easy Car.
“Congratulations to all those awarded — they have shown they have the services and processes in place to uphold the highest standards of customer safety. Our ambition now is for more companies in the sector to follow in their footsteps.”
The sharing economy is no stranger to scandal, but SEUK believes the TrustSeal could help build greater trust between sharing economy platforms, businesses and consumers.
“The TrustSeal is an important development to set standards and expectations for users and to continue building trust, and we’re proud to be one of the first sharing economy businesses to be awarded with the accolade,” said James McClure, General Manager of Northern Europe for Airbnb.
Meanwhile, foreign startups might be having a hard time breaking into the Asian market, but in China, the sharing economy is booming. According to a recent report released by the State Information Center’s Sharing Economy Research Center, the sharing economy is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 40 percent through 2020 and to account for 10 percent of country’s GDP during the same period.
With economic growth reaching a plateau, the industry could provide a much-needed boost, unlocking resources and opportunities that are otherwise inaccessible. Services in China expand well beyond typical home, bike and ridesharing platforms, with new startups that address every aspect of daily life — such as Jiedian Keji’s portable battery charger vending machines or Molisan’s umbrella rentals — popping up almost every day.
With over 100 million people expected to engage in the sharing economy within the next three years, the government has begun to recognize the industry’s potential, naming it a top priority and worthy of government support. In May 2015, the State Council responded to the increasing popularity of the sharing economy by issuing of guidelines encouraging the government to establish a platform to optimize the country’s vast manufacturing resources.
Investors are jumping at the opportunity to participate in this new economic model, but the frenzy has led analysts, which view the current model as unsustainable, to call for greater government involvement and regulation.
In an interview with the Global Times, Zhang Yi, CEO of Guangzhou-based market consultancy iiMedia Research, said that many sharing startups aren’t in it for the long-term and are instead capitalizing on a trendy business concept. The result, he says, could be detrimental if government does not intervene.