Friday, February 23, 2018
Business

'Sharing economy' lets micro-entrepreneurs share resources, but conflicts with regulatory laws

Phillip Zakhour is a pioneer of the "sharing economy." He makes his living by renting out the in-law unit of his San Francisco house on Airbnb, performing errands and odd jobs as a TaskRabbit, and ferrying people across the city as a driver for Sidecar.

"I do this now because it pays," said the 49-year-old former software engineer, who says he can earn about $4,000 a month before taxes if he works really hard. "I'm a single dad with two kids and a mortgage. I'm not saving any money, but I'm surviving."

But the Web- and application-based startups that have kept Zakhour afloat now face a thicket of regulatory, tax and labor issues in many of the cities where they operate. And that may threaten the livelihood of micro-entrepreneurs like Zakhour and the new wave of companies that pay them.

While the new companies say they are creating jobs by disrupting legacy industries that have fallen behind the technological curve, established industries — from hotels to taxicabs — complain the newcomers are taking unfair competitive advantage and in some cases endangering the public by sidestepping safety, tax and labor rules.

Government agencies, meanwhile, are under mounting pressure both to enforce existing rules and regulations and to update them for new business models that didn't exist five years ago.

"The sharing economy often straddles the line between pure sharing and commerce," said Oakland, Calif., attorney Janelle Orsi, co-founder of the Sustainable Economies Law Center. "Our laws should also make reasonable space for 'nano-enterprise' — all the small things people do to supplement their incomes. Why not allow people to make money giving rides to others?"

State regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission in November came down on the side of traditional cab companies, slapping startups Lyft, SideCar and Uber each with a $20,000 fine after accusing them of operating as passenger carriers without evidence of commercial insurance to cover injuries, property damage and workers' compensation claims.

New York City is cracking down on Airbnb hosts, arguing short-term rentals violate state laws against renting out rooms or apartments for less than 30 days. And the Washington, D.C., City Council recently hammered out a framework for accommodating car services like Uber.

The new companies say regulators don't understand the pace of innovation or the contribution they make toward easing congestion and environmental degradation. Nearly 6,500 people signed a petition on behalf of Lyft and SideCar, urging the CPUC to protect ride-sharing.

"Every politician that we've talked to has been supportive of what we're doing," said Sunil Paul, CEO of San Francisco-based SideCar. "Transportation is generally a mess. … Our overall view is that this is a new medium, and we need new rules to manage it. The regulators' agenda should be the public interest."

But Frank Lindh, the CPUC's general counsel, isn't easily swayed by the arguments about disruptive technology.

"These companies are for-profit companies, and they are putting people's butts into seats," he said.

Comments
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

VALRICO — During his final few days, 19-year-old Dustin Snyder moved to a hospice house, surrounded himself with belongings from home, swam in a pool and visited the beach in Ruskin.Wherever he went, the terminally ill Valrico man had family beside h...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

TAMPA — The Downtowner may be heading to Tampa Heights — but not until Oct. 1.That’s because the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership this week won initial City Council approval to expand into Tampa Heights."Tampa Heights is becoming an important gat...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Tampa lawyer gets 27 months in federal prison for insider trading

Tampa lawyer Walter "Chet’’ Little was sentenced this week to 27 months in federal prison for engaging in an insider trading scheme that reaped him and a friend profits totaling nearly $1 million.According to federal authorities, Little accessed comp...
Updated: 7 hours ago
More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

Three major companies — Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha, and the cybersecurity giant Symantec — have ended co-branding partnerships with the National Rifle Association as a #BoycottNRA social media movement picks up steam.Enterprise...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citigroup is preparing to issue $330 million in refunds after the bank discovered it had overcharged nearly 2 million credit card customers on their annual interest rates, a spokeswoman said Friday.The bank, which has about 150 million credit card ac...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

ODESSA — The 63-year-old lakeside summer camp had no air conditioning or electricity. Cabin floors were often covered in grime, and cobwebs clung to the windows.But under new ownership, the 18.6 acres of Florida woods known as Camp Scoutcrest to memb...
Updated: 9 hours ago
BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

Millions of BB&T customers were unable to access their accounts after a service outage which the bank blames on an equipment malfunction. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based bank posted a statement on its Twitter page saying the problem persiste...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

ST. PETERSBURG — Tired of working as a yacht captain, Pancho Jiminez decided to get into real estate even though he knows it’s a highly competitive field in Florida."Realtors are every 10 feet around here," he says.Nonetheless, Jiminez is among 30 st...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Winn-Dixie sells 8 stores after report says owner could close 200 locations

Winn-Dixie sells 8 stores after report says owner could close 200 locations

A week after Bloomberg reported that Southeastern Grocers — the Jacksonville retailer that owns Winn-Dixie and other chains — could be closing up to 200 stores, the company announced it was selling off eight of its Louisiana locations.Texas’ Brooksh...
Updated: 11 hours ago