Technology can add risk to opportunity
IN RECENT years, technological advances have led to radical new ways of providing traditional services, from holiday accommodation to taxis.
While these new services have seen rapid growth based on the promise of lower prices, consumers and service providers are often unaware of the personal risks and legal implications that may be involved.
Two high-profile services are Airbnb, which allows people to profit from empty rooms or properties by renting them as guest accommodation, and UberX, which allows people to use their personal car to provide a form of taxi service.
While advocates of the “sharing economy” argue that these technologies are simply shaking up inefficient old industries, they ignore the fact that existing laws and regulations have been put in place to provide protections for consumers, workers and the community.
For example, properties listed on Airbnb are not inspected or regulated for safety like traditional hotels.
For homeowners, there are similar risks, with properties sometimes used to host parties or as pop-up brothels, and as a base for other undesirable activities.
UberX has run into legal troubles in NSW, because drivers do not comply with the requirements of the Passenger Transport Act, which governs taxi services.
Drivers are also exposed to additional risks, such as having fewer safety features in their cars, issues with their insurance not covering a commercial activity, as well as the risk of prosecution for breaching current legislation.
In NSW, the legality of the UberX service is being examined. The NSW Government has announced the Point to Point Transport Taskforce, in part to investigate platforms such as UberX.
Separately, an application for an injunction preventing the use of the smartphone app service was lodged this month in the NSW Supreme Court.
This legal action argues that the UberX service is breaching the law by allowing or aiding unaccredited people to carry out a passenger service for a fare.