The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has today released guidance for platform operators in the sharing economy, along with guidance for consumers, service providers and sellers outlining their rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.
“The sharing economy provides consumers with increased choice and offers individuals new ways of generating income. The roles of platform operators, consumers, sellers and service providers are all interrelated and it is important that each understand their specific legal obligations under the Australian Consumer Law,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
The ACCC’s guidance for platform operators highlights the importance of having and disclosing policies around the operation of reviews. The ACCC’s recent participation in the ICPEN annual internet sweep identified 29 sharing economy platforms in Australia that use reviews. More than two thirds of these failed to disclose policies about how the review process operates.
“The sweep showed that there is not a lot of information available about whether reviews can be edited, removed or disputed by users or the platform itself; or what processes are in place to ensure that reviews are genuine,” Ms Rickard said.
“Accurate reviews are important to the sharing economy, not just in terms of determining quality, but as an important indicator of trust and safety. If platforms represent the reviews they are facilitating as authentic, genuine or verified, then they must have in place processes to ensure this is in fact the case.”
The ACCC’s guidance for sellers explains in simple terms that they have obligations to the consumers that they sell to, and also rights when dealing with platforms.
“Platforms rely on sellers. These sellers are generally small or micro businesses who may not often come into contact or have a strong understanding of the Australian Consumer Law. It is imperative that platform operators help to educate and assist them in complying with their obligations.”
The ACCC’s guidance for consumers sets out eight simple tips to assist consumers to get the most from the sharing economy, including understanding how reviews and ratings operate and checking whether the platform operator offers any additional protection for transactions made via the platform.
The ACCC will be working with the state and territory consumer law regulators to educate platforms and sellers about their legal obligations as part of a national project over the coming months. The project will also educate consumers and sellers about their rights when trading in the sharing economy and how to get the most from their engagement with it.
On 22 September, the ACCC looked at the review policies and practices of 71 potential sharing economy platforms as part of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) annual internet sweep. Further information on ICPEN is available at www.icpen.org.
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