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US: Uber and Airbnb face criticisms at FTC conference

 |  June 10, 2015

The Federal Trade Commission hosted a wide-ranging seminar Tuesday to debate issues of public safety and market competition in the emerging on-demand economy, with representatives from some of the field’s major players facing off in panels against critics.

During her opening remarks, Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen assured Uber, Airbnb, and other platforms like them that they shouldn’t view the FTC as an adversary, but as a potential ally.

“We did not convene today’s workshop as a prelude to some planned, big enforcement push in this space,” she said.

But during a day-long discussion with economists, policy experts, and industry stakeholders, concerns about market power, uneven regulation, and data privacy were clearly top of mind.

In one panel, Matthew Daus, a former Chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, faced off against Ashwini Chhabra, Uber’s head of policy development, arguing that the company skirts labor and liability rules.

“I don’t really know what we are sharing,” Daus said. “This is about a person getting into a car, going from point A to point B, paying money for it, and a company making a profit.”

In another contentious dialogue, Airbnb’s head of global public policy, David Hantman, tangled with the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s head of government affairs, Vanessa Sinders, who framed her comments on hotels as a request for equal treatment.

“Right now there is an unlevel playing field that is compromising consumer safety and endangering the character and security of residential neighborhoods across the country,” she said.

Full content: Mondaq

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