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Publication - Minutes

Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy: September 2017

Published: 30 Oct 2017
Date of meeting: 27 Sep 2017
Date of next meeting: 26 Oct 2017
Location: New Register House, 3 West Register Street, Edinburgh

The Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy was set up in April 2017 to provide advice, expertise and to make recommendations to Scottish Ministers on how Scotland can position itself to take advantage of the opportunities of the collaborative economy.

Attendees and apologies

In attendance

  • Helen Goulden – Nesta (Chair)
  • Claire Mack – Scottish Renewables
  • Polly Purvis - ScotlandIS
  • Patrick Robinson – Airbnb
  • Malcolm Roughead – VisitScotland
  • John Schmidt - Shepherd & Wedderburn
  • Douglas Shand – Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC)
  • Lorraine King – Scottish Government
  • Martin Namor – Scottish Government
  • Jamie Steed – Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Louise Sutherland – Scottish Government
  • Janice Andrew – Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Tony Cairns - Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS)
  • Jenna Cane – Sharing Economy UK (SEUK)
  • Keith Dryburgh – Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS)
  • Stuart Mackinnon – Federation of Small Businesses – (FSB)
  • Morgan Wild – Citizens Advice

Apologies

  • Andrew Byrne – Uber
  • Jonathan Coburn – Social Value Lab
  • Corey Reilly – Scottish Government
  • Ewan MacDonald-Russell – Regulatory Review Group (RRG)
  • Grahame Smith – Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)

Items and actions

1. Welcome

The Chair welcomed everyone to the panel session, thanking them for their attendance and confirmed that the session would be split into two halves. The first on consumers, providers and consumer protection, and the second on businesses and digital skills. To ensure an open and transparent process, the presentations and submissions will be published online.

2. Stakeholder evidence session

The Chair invited stakeholders to present their responses to key questions which they were provided in advance. To ensure an open and transparent process these will be published online alongside the minutes. The following organisations presented to the panel;

  • Citizens Advice;
  • Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS);
  • Federation of Small Businesses (FSB);
  • Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS)
  • Sharing Economy UK (SEUK); and
  • Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

3. Follow-up questions from panel to stakeholders- Consumers, providers and consumer protection

Throughout the panel it has been noted that there is a need to inform consumers about the collaborative economy. This continued within this session alongside the level of awareness of providers of their rights, obligations and liabilities. It was noted that there is consumer protection between business to consumer transactions however there is not between peer to peer (consumer to consumer) transactions. It was felt that platforms could do more to educate their community of users, be it consumers or providers, on their rights and obligations and at a minimum, there should be basic signposting. The panel was interested to explore whether there was a disproportionate change in consumer complaints from traditional methods of providing goods or services to the collaborative economy and if the type of complaints were comparable.

New action – Citizen Advice & Citizen Advice Scotland to share data sets on consumer complaints of collaborative economy platforms

If something goes wrong or a consumer is unhappy with a service it was highlighted that while Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) routes can be helpful for consumers, there are around 150 schemes. It would be useful to either reduce the number or have common standards to help consumers have a consistent experience. The panel noted that there is a disparity of engagement from platforms on redress and sign up to ADR schemes. However, this might be attributed to their level of resources. It was felt that platforms need to take more responsibility when an unsafe or unsatisfactory service is provided.

The benefits that the collaborative economy can bring to rural areas was highlighted as it has the ability to open up market places. However to realise these benefits, digital connectivity issues need to be addressed to ensure a blanket coverage across Scotland. It was noted that additional funding could boost collaborative platforms in rural areas where they may be needed the most e.g. car sharing or oil clubs.

It was felt that regulation, tax collection and licensing processes are outdated and haven’t kept up with the evolution of the collaborative economy. These systems need to be adapted and designed in an agile manner so that they can adapt alongside new business models. It was highlighted that recent regulations have not taken account of the complexities of the collaborative economy or wider digital economy. The need to not adversely impact on innovation was also noted alongside unintended consequences that might arise from regulations.

There was discussion on enforcement and regulation as well as thresholds between occasional and commercial activities. There was discussion on self-regulation and initiatives such as Trusted Trader schemes; whilst these aren’t the sole answer to concerns, they help to build consumer trust and enable businesses to become more successful. The development of a Code of Practice for the collaborative economy was considered. It was also felt that the Government could do more to promote ethical behaviour in businesses. The complexity of redress in the collaborative economy was noted and that support is needed for some consumers alongside advice.

New Action – SEUK to consider thresholds to define occasional use versus commercial

4. Follow-up questions from panel to stakeholders - businesses and digital skills

The importance of digital skills for Scotland was highlighted especially to realise the opportunities that the digital and collaborative economy presents. Digital skills needed to go beyond skills for consumption of digital technology. It was noted that digital sector jobs are the jobs of the future; while they have an above average salary there is currently a shortfall within Scotland with a number of unfilled posts. The opportunities are being highlighted to young people and their parents through Discover Digital and champions in each local authority. CodeClan is the only EU accredited Digital Skills Academy with 329 students to date and 256 completed. It launches courses every six weeks on a 16 week programme and has a very low dropout rate. There is currently a Digital Skills Survey underway updating the previous baseline from 2015. The need to change perceptions of young people and up skilling of the current workforce are key for future economic success.

5. Panel debate

The panel discussed a number of the points that were raised throughout the evidence session. They considered the issues and types of consumer complaints that were discussed by stakeholders and were keen to determine if there was a disproportionate change. It was noted that this should be kept under observation with data being collected and analysed to see if this is increasing in tandem with engagement levels. The discussion moved on to thresholds to define between occasional peer to peer (consumer to consumer) and when these becoming trading/commercial activities e.g. VAT thresholds. It was noted that HRMC have data gathering powers.

New action - Douglas Shand to discuss with specialist tax colleagues at PwC thresholds for tax and devise a matrix

There is a lack of awareness of the actual size of the collaborative economy and it was noted that platforms hold the data that could accurately detail this. The discussion moved into the space of consumer/provider awareness of rights and obligations when entering into transactions via the collaborative economy. It was felt that an awareness campaign might help inform consumers of the collaborative economy as well as providers. This would need to consider the different demographics that access and use the collaborative economy. There were various examples of initiatives that have undertaken similar exercises with varying degrees of success. Three themes were identified: prevention, practice and policing. It was felt that platform operators could do more to educate their users on local legislation and obligations. The potential impact of Brexit on consumer protection legislation was recognised.

There was discussion on evolving skill sets for regulators to keep pace with the changing market place. The panel agreed that the regulatory framework should be fair, transparent, inclusive and adaptive. The next session on public and social value could help inform how Scotland might shape the collaborative economy it wants rather than reacting to global platforms.

6. Final round up and date and time of next meeting

The Chair thanked everyone for attending and for their contributions and looked forward to seeing them next month at the next evidence session, which is focusing on wider implications including public services and social value. It will be held in New Register House in Edinburgh on Thursday 26 October between 12 – 4pm.

Annex A

Action number Owner Agreed action Status
1 Panel Panel to request data from STAA & Airbnb which can be built on available data sources e.g. Indigo House report Requests have been issued to Airbnb & Uber
2 Secretariat Secretariat to issue meeting request directly before the next panel session to discuss potential for recommendations a consideration paper will be circulated to aide discussion Complete
3 Panel Members to submit by e-mail a short paragraph of their final thoughts on August’s session.

Contact

Email: consumerandcompetition@gov.scot

Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Post: Scottish Government
Consumer and Competition Policy Unit
3rd Floor
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
Glasgow
G2 8LU

Published:
30 Oct 2017
Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy: September 2017