Workshop on Protecting Consumers in Peer Platform Markets

‌  8 November 2017   OECD, Paris


Peer-to-peer transactions have long played a role in commerce, but today's online platforms enable them on a much greater scale. Early examples include platforms for the (re)sale of goods (e.g. online auction and classified listings sites). Newer models include the short-term rental of accommodation and transport or mobility services. Using real-time geo-locational data accessed through mobile apps, mobility services enable the rental of private cars, rides and parking spaces. Other areas undergoing transformation involve small jobs, meal services and financial services. Sometimes described as the "sharing" economy or "collaborative consumption" the business models at issue in this workshop -- "peer platform markets" (or PPMs) -- involve commercial exchange. These business models open up economic opportunities for the individuals supplying the goods or services ("peer providers") and for the platforms making the connections ("peer platforms"). For consumers of these services ("peer consumers"), there are advantages in terms of price, selection, convenience and social experience.


Some may also be attracted to the prospect of more sustainable models of consumption. In addition to these benefits, peer platform markets raise new policy and regulatory challenges, including consumer protection issues. It can be difficult to apply existing consumer protection frameworks to business models that blur the boundaries between consumers and businesses. Some peer providers may generate sufficient commercial activity to suggest that they should bear consumer protection responsibilities, while at the same time appearing to be in a consumer relationship with the platform. Many peer platforms employ trust-building mechanisms for the users of their services (e.g. secure payment mechanisms, reputation or rating systems, pre-screening and verification, insurance, and complaints handling and dispute resolution). These mechanisms may help meet consumer protection objectives. A 2016 report by the OECD's Committee on Consumer Policy (CCP), Protecting Consumers in Peer Platform Markets, describes PPMs and outlines a set of issues for further research and consideration. To facilitate that consideration, the CCP commissioned an online survey to better understand the drivers of consumer trust in PPMs. The study that was carried out in early 2017 across ten OECD countries, Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Turkey, and the United States.


This workshop continued the policy discussion. It began with a session focused on the evidence that is now emerging about consumer experiences in these markets. The session on the evidence base began with a presentation of the main findings from the OECD survey of consumer attitudes. Two other sessions explored policy issues and were oriented around the other two main actors. The focus of the second session was the peer providers that supply the goods or services in these markets. A concluding session considered the role of the platforms in addressing the consumer protection issues that may arise in these markets.