OPINIONS Commentary: Sharing economy is not beyond the rule of law

OPINIONS

Commentary: Sharing economy is not beyond the rule of law

By Wang Wenhua | People's Daily app

14:14, June 13, 2018

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In recent years, the sharing economy has been flourishing. While bringing much convenience for the public, the sharing economy also has some problems, such as weak supervision and infringement on consumers’ rights and interests. The sustainable development of the sharing economy requires legal guarantees. The rule of law mindset should be regularly used to bring the sharing economy in line with the rule of law.

As a new thing, the sharing economy has unprecedented cross-industry characteristics. Although civil and economic laws can be applied to deal with legal issues such as breach of contract, infringement and unfair competition in the sharing economy, there are no clear legal provisions on many other issues, including identifying the nature of sharing platforms, industry clarification, industrial relations and  consumer relations. 

The low threshold of a sharing economy is also prone to problems. For example, some sharing economy projects even involve wrongful acts such as pyramid schemes, infringement on personal information, and extortion. These actions are difficult to determine in judicial practices and also difficult to find legal basis for sharing economy-related judicial issues, law enforcement, mediation and arbitration.

In addition, as a new business model, the sharing economy also brings many challenges to administrative and supervision departments. Sharing economy activities are often in the grey area of regulation because regulatory measures and resources lag behind.

To bring the sharing economy in line with the rule of law, we should make legislation and supervision more forward-looking, which is the only way for developing the new economic model sustainably and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of consumers. 

The sharing economy is not beyond the rule of law. It is necessary to address the new legal relationships and issues during the development of the sharing economy and incorporate the sharing economy into the rule of law by repealing, rectifying, making and interpreting laws in time so as to make the solutions to the issues clear.

At the same time, it is necessary to strictly regulate the entry threshold for employees in the sharing economy, check sharing platforms’ qualifications and formulate regulatory documents to clarify the rights and responsibilities of different subjects in this complex and diverse rights-sharing model. 

We should make clear how resource owners, users and operators share the resources and the principles and standards for sharing rights, obligations and responsibilities. In particular, the boundaries between the rights and responsibilities of the sharing platforms and regulatory departments have changed the one-way relationship between supervisors and supervisees. It is necessary to clearly define the boundaries according to the nature of different industries.

Placing equal emphasis on development and supervision, encouraging innovation and being inclusive and prudent are still guiding principles for legislation and regulation in the sharing economy. As for illegal and criminal activities with the sharing economy, we should pursue the legal responsibilities of related personnel according to law, even their criminal responsibilities, if necessary. 

At the same time, trial and error is accepted. In addition, we can take different measures according to different situations, focus on the role of soft laws and guide the development of the shared economy in a right direction through industrial associations, standards and guidelines.

 (The author is a professor at the Law School of Beijing Foreign Studies University; compiled by Zhang Jian)

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