Diana Cao

Volume 68, Issue 5, 1085-1110

The “sharing economy” is a term describing organized economic activity that may supplant the traditional corporate-centered model and encourages peer-to-peer transactions. It is a system of sharing underused assets or services, for free or for a fee, directly from individuals, bypassing traditional “middle men.” The sharing economy provides much of its services through on-demand platform, such as mobile apps, and matches customer needs with providers to immediately deliver these goods and services.

Does the “sharing economy” share its risk with its consumers? Should the sharing economy be regulated? What effect does the lack of regulation have on its consumers, and would implementation of more regulations change those effects?

This Note uses home-sharing and ridesharing companies in San Francisco as case studies to explore these questions. By comparing the hotel and the taxi industries’ regulations with the emerging regulatory frameworks surrounding Airbnb and Uber, this Note argues that these companies have been left to “self-regulate.” Self-regulation has not proven to be effective, and as a result, the health and safety of consumers has been put in jeopardy. This Note argues that the regulatory regimes in place prior to the rise of the “sharing economy” should be revisited and appropriately restructured for these newly emerged business models.

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