The Love Home Swap founder is delighted about government’s aim to protect consumers. Ian Taylor reports.
Sharing economy businesses such as accommodation provider Airbnb and holiday home exchange Love Home Swap could soon have a kite mark denoting they have signed up to consumer-protection measures.
The government was due to announce a programme to develop the kite mark this week in a joint move with Sharing Economy UK (SEUK), the recently formed trade body for the sector, and a leading UK university.
Love Home Swap founder and chief executive Debbie Wosskow, who chairs SEUK, said: “The plan is to have the kite mark fully developed before the end of the year.”
Wosskow established the trade body in March after completing a government-commissioned review of the sharing economy last year. SEUK already has more than 20 members, including Airbnb, TaskRabbit and ZipCar.
Abta announced last week that Wosskow will address the Travel Convention in Greece in October.
She told Travel Weekly that the kite-mark programme would be “a thorough piece of work”, saying: “It has to be applicable across a very broad sector. It has the backing of the Department for Business. The government is keen to get ahead of the curve. It believes the sharing economy has enormous potential.”
Wosskow is sensitive to concerns in the travel sector that sharing economy companies can enter markets without the burden of current regulations or the overheads of existing businesses.
She insisted: “I’m sympathetic to the concerns of people like the Bed and Breakfast Association.” But she added: “I’m also sympathetic to the argument that your point of entry to the market should not determine the hoops you have to jump through.”
Her Sharing Economy Review, published in November, made recommendations to the government, including “ensuring fair terms of entry to the accommodation market”. She suggested different levels of regulation for those renting out a single room for a few nights to those renting “100 rooms year-round”. Wosskow also called on ministers to cut red tape and open government departments to sharing-economy platforms.
She said: “The government is looking at ways of entering the [sharing economy] market and the impacts. Customer safety is vital. That can be physical safety, safety of payment, safety of data.
“The review made 30 recommendations – 28 for government and two for the industry. We want them to apply across the sharing economy. One [of the two for the sector] was that we should self-regulate and the other that we should develop a kite mark for the consumer [because] trust matters.”
Wosskow insisted the kite mark would signify not just consumer trust but “protection for workers in the sector”. She said: “How do workers get paid? What is their status? A kite mark is a big piece of work. But we are the first country to take this step.”
She pointed out business secretary Sajid Javid announced the establishment of a sharing economy action group last week, and said: “We are lucky to have a government willing to listen. We’re getting a series of wins. It’s amazing how far we have come.”
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