Regulating ‘sharing’

From an editorial Thursday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

Airbnb, one of an increasing number of services wherein individuals can offer rooms to short- or long-term guests out of their homes, has made a fair decision to collect and remit to the state sales taxes collected on behalf of home hosts in North Carolina.

It also will collect hotel occupancy taxes in Wake, Durham Mecklenburg and Buncombe counties.

The decision answers the concerns of those in the hospitality industry that homeowners renting rooms through Airbnb had an unfair advantage in charging lower prices and then not having to charge taxes.

Regulation of these services, including Uber, the ride-for-a-fee service, is a work in progress. Airbnb’s officials seem inclined to go along with regulation, and they’re smart to do so. It’s unlikely they can fend off all rules, and by cooperating Airbnb is apt to get rules more to its liking.

In a tight economy where people are looking to add to their income, it’s fair to let them offer rooms in their homes, a common practice in other countries. Many customers for these services swear by them, and they’re part of a growing “sharing economy” fueled by the spread of mobile devices.

But even a new form of commerce must be subject to traditional standards of fairness and safety.