Can you trust the sharing economy?

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Would you use a service that was cheaper than its competitors or offered you the chance to make a bit of money? It's a no-brainer isn't?

The sharing economy and services like Uber, Airbnb, Zipcar, EasyCar Club and BorrowMyDoggy offer brilliant solutions for those on a budget, and anyone wanting to make a few quid on the side. The only thing standing between us and a wealthier life is the issue of trust.

Lack of trust

A study by global online review community Trustpilot found that 39% of people worry that services provided through the sharing economy can't be trusted as much as those through traditional outlets. It's easy to see why this is. Technically there's less of an onus on someone to deliver an excellent service if they are just making a few quid on the side, than if they are relying on it to make a living.

However, that's no reason to write off the sharing economy entirely. There are still plenty of brilliant and cheap places to stay on Airbnb - the study found that 63% of people had found cheaper accommodation through this kind of site. There's also a small fortune to be saved by using car pooling services like Uber cars and car borrowing sites like easyCar Club.

How can you trust a site?

A few things make a big difference to how much we trust a service. It helps if a friend or family member has had a good experience with a particular site, which is why 42% say they would usually wait until someone they know has used a sharing economy scheme before using it themselves.

In addition, it helps to know who would be responsible if something went awry. Almost one in three (29%) said they'd avoided using a sharing economy platform because of a lack of clarity on who would hold responsibility if something goes wrong. Every service will make this clear in its terms and conditions, so you will need to read through them in order to appreciate the specific protections in place.

EasyCar Club, for example insists that everyone lending out a car is offering a vehicle that's less than 15 years old, with fewer than 100,000 miles on the clock. The website itself then arranges insurance and breakdown cover for the duration of the loan, and takes a deposit to cover any potential excess. There's also a licence check - to make sure drivers don't have too many points on their licence, or too many insurance claims. Those who want to rent also take part in a video call, to confirm their identity.

Online reviews also make a big difference. Over half (57%) say online reviews help to influence their choice. James Westlake, UK VP at Trustpilot adds: "Online reviews provide a huge wealth of information and can help you make informed choices by learning from the first hand experiences of others."

How can you trust an individual supplier?

In some cases, online reviews are incredibly useful here too. If, for example, you were looking for a holiday rental direct from the owners, it's much easier to trust someone who has been on the site for years and has a number of glowing reviews than someone who listed their villa yesterday.

In other circumstances you have to trust the vetting procedures of the site itself, so check the small print to see what checks someone has to go through before they are allowed to offer their services.

Sometimes there's a process you can go through personally before agreeing to a share. So, for example, nobody would be expected to leave their pet with a stranger through BorrowMyDoggy: they would be expected to get to know one another first, so they are letting a friend borrow their dog.

Yet despite all this, there's a reasonable chance that you're either the sort of person who likes the idea of the sharing economy and is willing to give it a go - or the sort of person who doesn't really like to share. Chief executive of easyCar Club, Richard Laughton agrees: "It's not going to suit everyone, and we know it's better for people who don't have a huge emotional attachment to their car, but if it does suit you, it could be a great way to offset the cost of owning a car."

But what do you think? Do you trust the sharing economy? Let us know in the comments.

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