This post was written by John P. Feldman and Jonathan R. Davey.

Following Commissioner Ohlhausen’s opening presentation, Stanford Professor Liran Einav introduced the first morning panel. It was moderated by Nathan Wilson, Economist for the FTC’s Bureau of Economics.  Panelists beyond Prof. Einav were Chiara Farronato, professor at Harvard Business School; Joshua Gans, University of Toronto professor of strategic management; and Glen Weyl, University of Chicago economics professor currently working for Microsoft Research.

Highlights included: 

  • Einav argued that the sharing economy should be observed for at least three or four years before regulators attempt to customize a level regulatory playing field.
  • Weyl disagreed – “wrong that uncertainty should lead to forbearance.”
  • Gans said he trusted Uber to take his kids from place to place, but not the Toronto taxi system.  Uber’s inherent lack of privacy allows him to see where his kids are the entire time, as well as who is driving them.
    • Gans also asked the audience to consider how much of the sharing economy might make up the entire economy; the point here was that economists do not know and are not well situated to predict.
    • He also highlighted what he saw as the two major concerns for regulators in the sharing economy: safety and market dominance.

Andrew Stivers, Deputy Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics, and Cecelia Waldeck, attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, moderated the second panel. It consisted of Chrysanthos Dellarocas, professor at Boston University Business School; Andrey Fradkin, National Bureau of Economic Research fellow; Ginger Jin, University of Maryland econ professor; Chris Nosko, University of Chicago Business School professor; and Steven Salter, V.P. of Standards and Services at the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Highlights included: 

  • Dellarocas discussed (and has written on) how online reputation serves as quasi-regulation. Also, he discussed challenges inherent to online reputation systems.
  • Fradkin discussed the rating biases he found in Airbnb data.
  • Nosko used eBay data to support Dellarocas’ argument.
  • Salter focused his time on highlighting changes to how the Better Business Bureau uses consumer complaints and sharing economy company responses to generate its ratings.

Professor Arun Sundararajan at NYU’s business school gave a presentation entitled, “Platform Power, Reputation, and Regulation: Policy Framing Presentation.”

Highlights included: 

  • The sharing economy might lead to “Data Darwinism” and may put companies that cannot develop positive online reputations out of business.
  • The sharing economy blurs the personal/professional line. Is this a hobby one is doing for money or a profession?

After lunch, Commissioner Catherine Sandoval of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) presented on the complexity of regulating the sharing economy.  Her best illustration of this was a torts fact pattern that highlighted how accidents involving transportation network companies (TNCs, such as Uber, Lyft, etc.) can complicate liability issues. The CPUC has issued rulings that disallow TNCs from relying on their drivers’ personal insurance, how TNC driver insurance requirements change depending on when they are seeking to provide rides, when they are “off duty,” and when they have accepted a fare but have yet to pick up the passenger.  But who is liable when a TNC driver advertises that he is available to pick up a passenger, collides with another car that hits a hydrant and causes a cover to fly hundreds of feet away, breaking an unrelated pedestrian’s leg?  Further, what if the TNC broadcasts daily events updates for certain regions so that its drivers can be available for passengers seeking to attend or leave these events?

The third panel, hosted by Julie Goshorn, attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Competition Office of Policy and Coordination; and William Adkinson, Jr., attorney advisor with the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, was titled, “The Interplay between Competition, Consumer Protection, and Regulation: Business and Regulatory Views.” Participants were Matthew Daus, Partner at Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf and the former Chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission; David Hantman, Head of Global Public Policy at Airbnb; Ashwini Chhabra, Head of Policy Development at Uber Technologies; Brooks Rainwater, Director of the National League of Cities’ City Solutions and Applied Research Center; and Vanessa Sinders, Senior Vice President and Head of Government Affairs at the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Highlights included: 

  • Chhabra noted that one in two Uber trips in Chicago starts or ends in a neighborhood the City of Chicago has deemed under-served.
  • Rainwater emphasized that local regulatory control was important; every city is different.  Further, cities are generally adapting their regulations as they need to, as the sharing economy grows.
  • Despite their different backgrounds, Hantman and Sinders agreed that the future is bright for hotels.
  • Daus said that the same liability, insurance, and safety concerns should apply to taxi companies and other transportation services equally.
  • Sinders made the same argument about hotels and Airbnb-type services.

The last panel was titled, “The Interplay between Competition, Consumer Protection, and Regulation:  Policy Perspectives,” and was moderated by Marina Lao, director of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning; and Megan Cox, attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.  The panel’s participants were Lee Peeler, President and CEO of Advertising Self-Regulatory Council and executive vice president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus National Advertising Self-Regulation; Sofia Ranchordás, a fellow with Yale Law School’s Information Society Project; Maurice Stucke, professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law; Arun Sundararajan, NYU Business School Professor; and Adam Thierer, a Mercatus Center fellow at George Mason University.

Highlights included:

  • Sundararajan noted that self-regulation is different from deregulation and non-regulation; it is regulation separate from the government.
  • Thierer took the approach that the sharing economy might solve problems faster/ better than regulations on the sharing economy.
  • Ranchordás was concerned that the sharing economy is more innovative than regulations can ever be.