After the bottom dropped out of the economy towards the end of the last decade, the UK economy was slow to recover. In fact, there are some who dispute the fact that it has ever really recovered based on levels of unemployment which are still rampant in many areas of the nation. However, there is one ray of light that seems to have slipped up while no one was watching and that is the sharing economy that is said to be responsible for providing jobs for more than 5 million Britons who had previously been unemployed.
Uberisation – the Sharing Economy at Work
The sharing economy, many times referred to as ‘uberisation,’ is a new concept to many people who have been brought up in the traditional way of doing business. In the traditional model a business charges for their services and products at prices which are pretty much set by market standards. In the sharing economy, entrepreneurs share their products, services and knowledge, property that they personally own, for a price that is often half or less than the going rate based on market values.
The Uber taxi service is one example of the sharing economy at work. Drivers who own cars can register, riders access the nearest driver through a downloadable app and are paired with that car, bypassing taxi companies that charge at least double what an Uber ride would cost. This puts the driver to work at a job he or she can do with resources they have on hand (their car and driving licence) and the rider benefits from a greatly discounted ride. The concept is to provide a mutually beneficial exchange.
Uberisation from a Different Perspective
To many, the concept is mutually beneficial but there are those who question whether the consumer is really getting the bargain they had hoped for. In the traditional business model, a company invests large sums of money to operate with state of the art equipment, spends long hours perfecting their craft and hires top talent to provide products and services that are competitive based on quality as well as price. In the sharing economy there is little investment on the part of the entrepreneur who already has the property or knowledge and little is required to get a return on an investment that, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t made.
Critics believe that in many instances the consumer is left with an inferior product or service simply because the initial investment to ensure quality wasn’t made. Legal services commoditisation is one of the biggest concerns at the moment but not because legal advice offered isn’t coming from a licenced solicitor but rather because of the way that advice is delivered. Now there are legal documents that are, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than a fillable form accessed online that can then be printed and delivered to the proper person. But without prerequisite legal counsel, is this the best form to utilise? Could some other legal route provide a better outcome for the petitioner? That is the question left unanswered at this early stage of uberisation in the legal field.
Some Industries and Consumers Will Certainly Suffer the Consequences
The biggest concern is that it has yet to be determined if the sharing economy isn’t providing just a way to get cheaper products and services without an acceptable level of quality being offered. In industries such as marketing, transcreation and legal services, consumers may not be getting the bargain they had hoped for. Computers can translate from one language to the next but have yet to conquer the emotion and human intelligence behind the meaning of what is being said. So transcreation will certainly suffer as will many petitioners who utilise stock fillable forms without the expertise of a solicitor who bases a legal proceeding on experience as well as knowledge.
Is uberisation the way of the future or will it need to go through several incarnations before providing an acceptable outcome? This is the question and only time will provide insights needed to offer a suitable answer. The sharing economy may be the downfall of some industries but others may weather the storm well. At the moment uberisation is opening doors to provide jobs for enterprising individuals who would otherwise be unemployed but is this sustainable going forward? Only time will tell its impact on the overall economy of the UK, but the sharing economy is one that will most definitely be watched closely by critics and consumers alike.