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Disrupting the Disruptors

Last week, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand hosted a panel discussion about the sharing economy entitled “disrupting the disruptors” and featuring a panel of legal, property and transport experts.

The session quickly zeroed in on the challenges facing Thailand’s regulators – and for that matter, regulators around the world who, on one hand recognize the benefits of digital innovation but on the other hand face a number of pressures, including those from entrenched, traditional businesses who are losing market share to the world’s biggest sharing economy companies.

The panel featured Thitirat Thipsamritkul, a law lecturer at Thammasat University; Samphop Bunnag, president of the Property Management Association of Thailand and Siri Tadpring, representative from The Thai government’s Department of Land Transport.

On property, K. Samphop spoke of the challenges and discomfort caused to condominium owners by short-term AirBnB residents. Among his numerous warnings about AirBnB, he did mention one interesting new solution used by some property developers who devote an entire floor to AirBnB rentals so as not to disturb long-term owner-residents on other floors.

On transport, K. Siri revealed that the government is now conducting a study of 6 months to one year on the impact of Uber in Thailand. He said that there would be no proactive crackdown on Uber during this time, but that the government is required to reactively respond to complaints. He also noted, surprisingly, that the Department of Land Transport is trying it’s hand at digital technology and will launch its own series of taxi apps later this year.

The comments of the night came from K. Thitirat, sharing a legal perspective, when she said in reference to global and regional competition, that “the country that can best adjust its laws in the fairest way will be the winners in this game.” She was critical of the government’s attempt to build their own taxi app, adding that the role of government should be “to facilitate, not compete.”

Following are the sensible guidelines K. Thitirat advised as means for the government to maximize the public benefits of the sharing economy. Regulators, she said, should do the following:

  • Ensure fairness and end monopolies
  • Find compromise as best as possible between old and new industries
  • Enforce minimum standards for health and safety applicable to all properties and all vehicles
  • Regulate the use of risk insurance
  • Implement tax laws
  • Manage dispute resolution
  • Manage data protections and security regulations

Ultimately, compromise and fairness to all parties, including millions of consumers who enjoy the benefits of the sharing economy, should be the guiding light the for regulators. The fact that the Department of Land Transport is taking a cautious approach, and studying the situation for up to a year, is good news for the disruptors in Thailand.

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