Re: Uber Ruling Could Cripple Sharing Economy
I can definitely see both sides here. Compare Uber directly to a Taxi company (which, they get lots of flak for being able to dodge existing Taxi regulations), and you see similiarities as well as differences. I've seen some people imply that they're more similar to an eBay, which is awfully disengenious. eBay doesn't regulate how you ship your stuff (what car you drive) , what prices you're allowed to charge (uber sets the rates), quality (as long as you mark broken stuff as broken). eBay sellers might be obsessive about maintaining high ratings, but they don't get kicked off without them (Uber drivers do get kicked off for low ratings).
What I haven't been able to find is what exactly the woman wanted to be reimbursed for. Don't Uber drivers sign some sort of agreement up front that they don't expect reimbursement (seems like a pretty large oversight otherwise)... it makes the court decisions seem a bit silly, but it still raises the question of whether Uber can put whatever they want in that agreement and have it all be kosher. Uber is definitely going out of their way to skirt the definitions and the regulations as closely as possible - which, in itself, is not a crime. Maybe a new category is needed to distinguish the gray area between bona fide employee and truly independant contractor? The potential abuse of workers under the legal code is definitely independent of the technology here.
None of that is the real question here, though, is it? The real question is, do these old regulations really meet with the desires of the people, and if not, should they be changed? Should Uber have to match up with Taxi regulations (or employment regulations) in fairness to the Taxi companies , or should we let it kill them off the same way Netflix killed Blockbuster (nobody raised a regulatory red flag on Blockbuster's behalf)? In the US, at least, the one and only question that should matter is which one voters and taxpayers want. Now, as Gary_EL points out, it's a little more complicated than that. The people doing the work are taxpayers, too. it's a natural shifting of the economy as a result of technolgy, but that doesn't mean there's no need for regulation. Maybe Uber is on the right side of the law - but that doesn't mean every 'sharing' service will be.