Müller, K., & Scholl, W.Sharing, owning, participating – consumers and the sharing economy

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Müller, K., & Scholl, W.

Release date: 

June 2015 

Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. 

Using instead of owning, borrowing instead of buying, sharing instead of possessing –  going through life without the burden of ownership: this is the promise behind various offers by “Sharing Economy”. Due to new information technologies the access to goods and services is being simplified for consumers and the offered range is being amplified. Reducing the ecological footprint is yet another promise made by the Sharing Economy: the more car-sharing replaces private vehicles, the fewer resources are employed and needed.

With the help of digital platforms the Sharing-Idea gained momentum and increased in scope, convenience and accessibility. However, this also implies new challenges: consumers are uncertain about how far they can trust offers made by private individuals and how they are insured in case of fire in a private accommodation or against an accident with a borrowed vehicle. With regards to society on a broader level,  the Sharing Economy raises further questions. If sharing transforms from being a social practice towards becoming a mere business concept, then interpersonal relations may be commercialized in the process.

In this discussion paper the vzbv looks at opportunities, risks and political challenges entailed by the Sharing Economy and its offers. The aim is not to present ready-made solutions, but to pose questions and offer proposals for the incipient political discussion.