Sharing economy - do consumers trust it?

Almost half of people (47%) in the UK believe that sharing economy schemes benefit consumers, but 39% feel these aren't as trustworthy as traditional outlets.

This is according to new research from global online reviews community Trustpilot which looks into consumer trust in the sharing economy.

The survey also finds that over a quarter (29%) of people have previously avoided using a sharing economy platform because of a lack of clarity on who would hold responsibility when something goes wrong.

When asked if, as the end-user, they should hold part of the responsibility when making a booking through a sharing economy website, 40% agreed. Respondents were also presented with a variety of hypothetical sharing economy scenarios and asked to assess who would be responsible. Opinion on who should hold ultimate responsibility when something goes wrong differs depending on the type of platform and the scenario, however there is strong consensus on the role of online reviews to help raise trust:

  • 36% say they feel the owner of the property should be ultimately responsible should a property rental advertised on a sharing economy platform or website be different to that advertised or photographed online
  • 39% say the end user should be responsible if a property rental or other product from a sharing economy platform or website is damaged by the end user during loan or rental
  • Almost a third (32%) believe the sharing economy website/platform or provider should be ultimately responsible if prices for a sharing economy product/service are different than advertised or if the end-user is overcharged
  • Over half (57%) say online reviews help or would help to influence their choice when purchasing a product or service from a sharing economy platform. A similar amount (55%) say positive reviews in particular would help them feel more confident about the service or product in question
  • 42% say they would usually wait until a friend or family member has used a sharing economy scheme before using it themselves

The survey also looked into the various types of sharing schemes and reveals that property rental sharing services (such as Airbnb) are the most popular type of sharing economy service with over half of people (58%) saying they have used or would consider using property rental sharing services.

This is in contrast to private car loan services and car sharing schemes (such as Zipcar) which rank lowest in terms of consumer popularity, with just over a quarter (28%) of people saying they have used or would consider using these.

The full ranking is below:

Sharing economy service Have used/would consider using
Property rental sharing economy services (e.g. Airbnb) 58%
Crowdfunding or peer - to - peer lending sharing economy services (e.g. Kickstarter or Crowdcube) 45%
Carpooling sharing economy services (e.g. Uber, BlaBlaCar) 40%
Pet sharing economy services (e.g. BorrowMyDoggy) 31%
Private car loan services or car sharing schemes (e.g. Zipcar) 28%

Sharing economy service Have used/would consider using Property rental sharing economy services (e.g. Airbnb) 58% Crowdfunding or peer - to - peer lending sharing economy services (e.g. Kickstarter or Crowdcube) 45% Carpooling sharing economy services (e.g. Uber, BlaBlaCar) 40% Pet sharing economy services (e.g. BorrowMyDoggy) 31% Private car loan services or car sharing schemes (e.g. Zipcar) 28%

Some of the most appealing aspects of the sharing economy according to respondents include price and the fact these services tend to offer more flexibility and choice.
 
For example, almost two thirds (63%) of respondents who have used or would consider using property sharing schemes say one of the aspects they find appealing is that they are generally cheaper than traditional outlets, while just over half (53%) say they enable them to find an option that suits them.
 
However, many people also fear getting ripped off. Almost half (48%) of those who say they wouldn’t use crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending services say one of the reasons is because they are afraid of getting ripped off, while 42% say the same for property rental sharing schemes.
 
James Westlake, UK VP at Trustpilot comments on the findings “It’s clear that sharing economy models can provide a huge amount of benefit to consumers. These schemes can often work out cheaper, and they can offer more choice and flexibility. However, the lines are blurred in terms of who holds responsibility when things go wrong. As our research shows, for these models to work, everyone, including the end user, needs to hold part of the responsibility. It’s no wonder this can seem daunting for many people.
 
“However, online reviews can play a key role in addressing these concerns. Spending time researching websites, products, services and providers will help mitigate risks. Online reviews provide a huge wealth of information and can help you make informed choices by learning from the first hand experiences of others.”

Case study

Dan and Laura Bennett from Tooting, London, own a classic VW campervan, which they rent out as part of their Soulvan business. They have taken advantage of the sharing economy to rent this out to holidaymakers via websites such as Airbnb and Camperbug. Following a successful first summer, they plan to expand their business and buy two more campervans.
 
Dan comments on their experience: “The sharing economy certainly has many benefits. It has provided us with a platform to launch and grow our business, and through websites like Airbnb and Camperbug, customers can book their holidays with us in a quick, easy and flexible way.
 
“However, the lines are definitely blurred when it comes to who holds responsibility when things go wrong. While we have primarily had successful bookings and happy customers, we had an unfortunate experience this summer. We have guidelines in place to say that the van shouldn’t be driven over a certain number of miles in one day, but the customers in question had significantly surpassed this limit and the van broke down during their holiday. We felt they should be liable to pay for repairs given they had not stuck to our guidelines, while they felt this was our responsibility as the owners and they wanted a refund. The issue was never really resolved. In the end, we had to take time off to go and pick up the van.
 
“Trust is fundamental for sharing economy services to work, and the reality is each party involved holds some level of responsibility and needs to be able to trust the other parties in question. Online reviews help us assess whether prospective customers are trustworthy, and many customers leave reviews about us also which helps other people assess whether this is the right holiday choice for them. We also ensure we have phone calls with people before they rent our van to make sure we are on the same page with the usage guidelines.”

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