NSW government after consistent approach and treatment of sharing economy

The NSW government has released a position paper that it says acknowledges the challenges a collaborative economy presents and how it hopes to approach regulatory issues.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The New South Wales government believes that technology has the potential to reduce the administrative costs for regulated entities and regulatory agencies, and has released a position paper that discusses how the government hopes to address what it called the collaborative economy.

The Collaborative Economy in NSW - position paper says that the government supports the development of the collaborative economy, providing all involved are being treated fairly and appropriate levels of consumer protection and public safety are in place.

"The collaborative economy is a rapidly growing area of the economy, comprised of a variety of business models that typically consist of a platform, suppliers, and customers," the paper says.

"While the concept of collaborative business is not new, recent developments in technology and digital platforms are connecting market participants in new ways, resulting in innovative business models."

The state government has outlined six principals in its paper that it said were developed to guide government agencies on how to approach regulatory and other challenges the sharing economy creates.

The NSW government said it will: Support a culture of innovation; ensure regulation is fit for purpose in the digital age; maintain consumer protection and safety; promote competition; and adopt an agile approach to government procurement.

According to a report prepared by Deloitte Access Economics for the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, the collaborative economy in the state is estimated to valued at over AU$500 million per year.

The report, Review of the collaborative economy in NSW, said the collaborative economy is creating opportunities for microenterprise and self-employment and is also providing people with opportunities to earn additional or supplementary income.

Deloitte estimated 45,000 people earned some sort of an income in the state through the collaborative economy in the last 12 months.

According to the position paper, the government intends to continue consultation with industry in gaining further evidence of the economic impact of the collaborative economy; determining the impact of regulation on new, existing, and potential entrants to the state's economy as well as the insurance, taxation, and planning aspects of such regulation; the role of government in providing a guide through the regulatory, licensing, and business registration systems; and the use of data to drive innovation.

Additionally, the NSW government said it will work with federal and local governments to promote a consistent approach and treatment of the collaborative economy and also to address regulatory challenges such an approach might bring with it.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said in October that he wants Australians to make money from sharing their properties and services and proposed a plan to "make it happen".

His party released a National Sharing Economy Principals Fact Sheet [PDF] that also outlined six principles for the sharing economy that Shorten hopes to turn into rules and regulations to help give rise to the next Uber or Airbnb.

These principles include the regulated sharing of primary property; appropriate wages and working conditions for staff; correct tax payments; proper protection and insurances; access for all, including those with a disability; and zero tolerance for those that defy the law.

Hamish Petrie, founder and CEO of Australian taxi-booking app and mobile payments platform Ingogo, said at the time that without a balanced approach to regulation, the disruption threatens to be destructive rather than healthy for the market

"We're pleased to see Labor recognise the need to facilitate a level playing field environment as sharing economy businesses enter the market," he said.

"Over recent years, the idea of a sharing economy has evolved to not only include the trade of goods and services between private citizens within the community, but also to include companies that facilitate the trade of these private goods for commercial gain. This has allowed some companies to skirt around existing regulations for their respective industries, leaving those that follow their set industry regulations in an uncompetitive position.

"The taxi industry as a whole recognises the need for healthy and genuine competition, so it's important to create the opportunity to modernise the archaic regulatory environment, but it has to be consistent to level the playing field for everyone."

At midnight on December 18, 2015, controversial ridesharing service Uber was given the green light in NSW with the state government officially recognising the service as legal.

"I want to see innovation flourish, I want to see competition flourish, I want to see consumers get the real benefits of this reform," the state's Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said last month.

Sam McDonagh, the country manager Australia and New Zealand for accommodation booking platform Airbnb, has previously said he hopes to work closely with federal, state, and local governments in Australia to produce legislation that caters for the homesharing economy.

Also on Wednesday, NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello announced a change to the Pawnbrokers and Second-hand Dealers Regulation that will require pawn shop staff record the "Wi-Fi MAC addresses" of smartphones, tablets, and laptops that come through their doors.

"It provides a digital identifier to the device," Dominello said. "This is far, far more secure than a serial number."

NSW Police Inspector Tony Heyward added that the police often finds devices but said that given their commonality, it is difficult to reunite them with their owner.

Dominello said finding a device's MAC address is straightforward and encouraged people to do it themselves.

"This morning I went to my phone and I looked at my Wi-Fi address and then I just copied it and I emailed that address to myself, so that way in the event that this phone is stolen, I can call the police and say 'Look, here's my Wi-Fi address, can you check your database in relation to the pawnbrokers across the state and find out if it's been attempted to be sold by one of the pawnbrokers'," he said.

"It is great to see that the police here are being very innovative in the way that they are tackling crime, particularly in the digital age."

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