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Collaborative consumption: new opportunities for consumers and businesses on the EU market

22 Jan 2014
Ref: 03/2014

Car-sharing, bookcrossing, room rental or digital communities for learning languages. Many forms of collaborative consumption are becoming more and more popular and represent great alternatives to traditional markets at times of crisis.

On 21 January, the EESC endorsed a new opinion on collaborative or participatory consumption[1] and called for further action at EU level. Given the complexity and scale of the emergence of collaborative consumption, the EESC wishes to:

  • regulate practice within these forms of consumption, in order to establish the rights and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved;
  • identify any potential barriers to these activities;
  • set up a database to pool experience.

"There is a clear need to provide information and to raise awareness about collaborative consumption. Collaborative consumption can meet social needs in situations where there is no commercial interest and it can help, as a for-profit activity, to create jobs", stated Bernardo Hernández Bataller, rapporteur and EESC member.

Potential benefits

Consumers purchase tools and utensils they never manage to use often enough to justify the price they paid. Collaborative consumption offers an alternative to the excesses caused by the previous century's hyper-consumption and the immense inequalities it created, such as the unnatural coexistence of hunger and obesity, or waste and precariousness. Its positive effects are, among others:

  • lower resource consumption and CO2 emissions, higher demand for good quality products if the products are to be lent, hired or repaired;
  • eco-design benefiting a number of different users;
  • durability and repeated customisation of compatible products;
  • social interaction, community development and trust among individuals;
  • access to high-quality products for lower-income consumers.

Moving towards more rational consumption also addresses market dysfunctions such as built-in obsolescence, since many designers in the field of collaborative consumption base their work on the development of hardwearing products that can be used by many people or last individual consumers or users a lifetime, which also makes them powerful allies in the war on waste.


[1] Collaborative consumption is a class of economic activity in which participants share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership.

 

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