As consumers, we are always looking for cost effective and efficient services. The combination of Smartphones and internet applications have created several disruptive products which will significantly benefit the consumer. These applications are however, disruptive of entrenched interests. These interests have responded not by improving their services but by lobbying regulators and legislators to outlaw or make it impossible for these startups to do business. Let’s look at two of these and see how our government is working against Consumer interests.
First, we have #Uber, a car hiring application. It allows consumers to directly communicate with taxis or limo services to schedule pickups and trips to specific destinations. It sounds like a great idea and much better than standing on a street corner hoping to find an available cab. The app. also allows you to compare availability, cost and time for a trip. Thus making it easier to make an informed decision as a consumer. Uber and similar services would put real pressure for competition among all of the car services. Since Uber does not provide the transportation but acts as a facilitator, they are not part of the regulatory structure. Public Utilities Commissions and cab drivers, among others, are suing. In New York Uber was forced to cease its fledgling yellow cab operation.
In Apple’s App Store, the Uber app has hundreds of five-star ratings. When the city of Washington, DC tried to pass rules to make Uber illegal, customers bombarded City Council members with thousands of email protests. This is how we Consumers have to fight back. We need to actively make sure our interests are being considered by our legislators.
Second, is #Airbnb, the service that allows you to book rooms in private residences. What Airbnb does is facilitate a marketplace where people with space can meet up with people who want to use that space on a long term or short term basis. This market place allows Consumers who are looking for space to connect with people who have space they are not using, for example, when they go on vacation. Hotels view this as a potential negative impact on their revenue. Landlords view it as revenue they are not getting a piece of. What about the retiree that uses this to supplement their income or the young family that uses this as a way to offset the cost of a family vacation?
In New York, the state recently passed a law that makes it much more difficult to rent residential rooms for less than 30 days. This is a response to online activities in promoting short stays for prices much lower than pricey New York hotels and a blatant attempt destroy this new marketplace.
Technology has allowed us to create new efficient markets that allow us to directly negotiate between buyers and sellers without the middleman who is taking a significant part of the deal. These new and exciting marketplaces are examples of how technology and Capitalism can create a real advantage for the Consumer by bring the buyer and seller closer together. We should not let the entrenched interests prevent progress. We need to let our representatives know in no uncertain terms that our interests as consumers need to be considered.
#consumer #consumer advocacy