The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
My name is Melanie Meharchand. I am California resident, and I have shared my second home via traditional and sharing-economy platforms. PRIVACY CONTROLS TO PROTECT HOME-SHARING HOSTS AS CONSUMERS Consumer protections should not be considered only in the sense of guests or as consumer but also in the sense of hosts as consumers. As a host, I am purchasing an advertising service. California's proposed Senate Bill 593, which seeks to have host data on a booking-by-booking basis remitted to the state, county, city and town, unfairly penalizes host-consumers. This bill off-loads government's responsibility to its citizens by requiring third-party, private entities to validate and enforce town/city/county land-use/zoning ordinances. This data should be held between me and my government and not managed by a private company that has no civic responsibility. This requirement exceeds the regulations imposed on traditional businesses in this space, e.g., hotels -- which are not required to submit their data on a booking-by-booking basis for government to validate -- and print and online newspapers, vacation magazines and real estate publications. This drag-net--style data grab in the name of enforcement is an over-reach, which threatens the privacy and security of Americans. It exceeds the amount of data required to be gathered for similar transactions by other businesses and unfairly burdens home-sharing consumers of sharing platforms' services. DEGREE OF TAXATION This question is at the forefront of my mind when I consider how sharing platform users should be taxed: "Is it fair to tax home owners paying property taxes and income taxes on space that they are sharing within their own homes at the same rate as a commercial enterprise that exists solely for profit?" I believe it is not fair to the sole proprietor home-sharer to tax them at the same rate as commercial enterprises, given the multiple taxes already levied against their property and income. I'm not opposed to a degree of taxation, but it should not be the same as a commercial enterprise. HOW THE EVOLVING ECONOMY HAS MADE SHARING MORE OF A NECESSITY Many Americans are giving up the dream of owning their own home. The cost of ownership -- especially on the West coast -- is extraordinarily high. Young adults are living with their parents longer, and it commonly leads to delaying when people are able to afford to start families. According to a Pew Research Center study: "In 2012, 36% of the nation's young adults ages 18 to 31-the so-called Millennial generation-were living in their parents' home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This is the highest share in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase over the 32% of their same-aged counterparts who were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007 and the 34% doing so when it officially ended in 2009." [See http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/08/01/a-rising-share-of-young-adults... Following the mortgage crisis, many working- and middle-class Americans have found that sharing underutilized space in their homes -- i.e., a guest bedroom or their whole home while they are traveling -- is a major factor in allowing them to afford their home, afford its upkeep and pay for their kids' schooling. In our case, 99% of our guests have been US nationals, and their funds have all been reinvested in our communities at for local services (contractors and cleaners), products (building materials and home goods) and for taxes and permit fees for improvement. IN SUMMARY I support paying a fair share of taxes. However, I disagree with the data grab proposed in California's SB593. Home-sharing platforms should not be held to a different standard of regulation than other comparable businesses. The sharing economy is a necessary part of the US economy and regulations should both facilitate it and help ensure the security of those participating in it.