Editorial: Put consumers first when revisiting regulation of car sharing
It's nice when legislative outcomes favor not the lobbyists but the little guy trying to get by.
It doesn't happen often enough.
Case in point: Efforts by the car rental industry to create regulations so onerous for those individuals who might rent their car to a stranger as to render it infeasible for them to do so.
The hotel business has not gone under in the face of Airbnb. Taxi companies still exist alongside drivers for Uber and Lyft, though admittedly the ride-sharing companies have taken a huge bite out of taxi and livery businesses.
And Enterprise, Alamo, Hertz and all the other legacy car rental outfits will find a way to thrive in a world that allows people to rent out their personal cars to others through such upstarts as Turo and Getaround.
Legacy companies need to up their game to compete better or diversify in the age of the sharing economy. Newspapers had to get smarter with the advent of Craigslist and the rise of direct advertising on the internet. Other legacy industries have had to get smarter, too. It's the way of our world.
Of course, the rules have to be fair in the process, and making sure that happens is a process that deserves careful thought and the contributions of all parties concerned. That concern was at the heart of car-sharing regulations we opposed that recently failed to overcome a governor's veto.
Four months ago, we urged the General Assembly to vote down a bill that would have put heavy restrictions on peer-to-peer car-sharing operations. The bill, heavily influenced by special interests and legacy car rental companies, passed with a veto-proof majority in the House and close to it in the Senate.
Saying the bill sought to unfairly stifle innovation, Gov. Bruce Rauner responded with an amendatory veto, offering a compromise that involved input from the auto, insurance and ride-sharing industries. It made venturing into ride sharing less burdensome on the little guy.
An attempt to override the veto failed in the state Senate, sending the issue back to the starting line where it belongs.
Don't get us wrong. We recognize this nascent business needs to be regulated. Peer-to-peer car-sharing customers must be afforded protections, such as ensuring the car they're using is safe. But the hastily written bill rushed through the General Assembly was far too one-sided and may have scuttled a valuable consumer initiative.
Studies show that millennials are less likely to own a car than previous generations, electing to use ride sharing and other modes of transportation instead. That's good for traffic and air quality. It's good for entrepreneurs who want to get more out of a car they don't use all the time. Technology and market forces have found a way to satisfy both interests. Now, we need regulations that will make the process both viable and safe.
Of course, that process needs to be fair to legacy rental car companies, but it also needs to recognize the interests of consumers and the potential for emerging companies to help serve them. We look forward to a return to this issue that considers all these angles.