As apps such as Uber, Airbnb and Airtasker become more popular, Victorians are being reminded about their rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) when it comes to the sharing economy.
The sharing economy connects consumers to people who have products to sell, hire or lease via an online platform and includes services such as ride sharing, home sharing and skill sharing.
Only about one third of people who currently buy products and services through such platforms realise they are protected by the ACL in the same way as they when they buy from a physical store.
Consumer Affairs Victoria is taking part in a new national campaign to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities, as these platforms are emerging and expanding quickly.
“The sharing economy provides a new, convenient experience for purchasing and hiring goods or services,” said Simon Cohen, Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria.
If you use the sharing economy to hire or buy products and services from a business, you are entitled to an honest description of products or services, and all the necessary information you need to make an informed decision.
You are also entitled to products that are of acceptable quality, and services that are provided with due care and skill.
If things go wrong, you can follow these steps to resolve the issue:
- speak to the seller or service provider
- contact the platform through their internal dispute resolution process, if they have one
- write a factual customer review and rate the business on the platform
- lodge a complaint with Consumer Affairs Victoria, if trying to resolve the problem directly with the business does not work.
Businesses have a responsibility to their consumers to not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct such as:
- writing a fake review
- asking or paying someone to write a fake review
- writing a false review about a competitor
- hiding negative customer reviews.
Businesses engaging with other businesses, including platform operators, are also protected by the ACL in certain circumstances. For example, the ACL protects small businesses and consumers from unfair terms in standard form contracts.
“It is important everyone plays their role to make the sharing economy fair, and follows the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Cohen said.
For more information on your rights and obligations in the sharing economy, visit the Sharing economy platforms page on the Australian Consumer Law website.