The Sharing Economy Moves into the B2B Space

As the so-called “sharing economy” continues to expand with new technology and willing consumers, so too do the risks associated with this new terrain.  These firms are leveraging online applications to bring services and consumers together for everything from home rentals, to ride shares to food delivery and child care.

Regardless of convenience or demand, organizations’ primary concern should be for the safety of their employees.

The evolving risks associated with this model raise the big question of liability, but additional complexities, such as regulatory issues, will create new legal challenges.  This sector and its risks are certainly on the insurance industry’s radar, but so far the response has not been uniform.

Now, new exposures are on the horizon as these models move from the consumer space into the business-to-business (B2B) space. New applications are being targeted to the businesses class and business professionals, and these new offerings are likely to establish more formal relationships between organizations and service providers—thereby increasing the threat.

For example, an organization may be considering partnering with a rideshare program for business to save costs normally associated with car service and transportation. Or employees may be interested in using a home share service while traveling on business, rather than a company-approved hotel.

While the appeal seems obvious, these types of scenarios can raise the threat level for organizations today. Regardless of convenience or demand, organizations’ primary concern should be for the safety of their employees.

Early Guidance for Risk Managers

Before engaging these kinds of services, risk managers would do well to consider the following:

  • Adopting clear corporate policies is the first step. Conduct a review of travel policies to determine if travel departments, travel service companies or software systems provide ride-share or home-share service options.
  • Address the risks of employees’ utilizing ride share and home share services, and think about each risk separately. Consider that the policy may need to vary depending on whether the travel is domestic or international. Review contracts with travel service companies to determine whether liability can be partially transferred.
  • Engage key stakeholders. Review the results with legal counsel and your insurance broker to determine whether it is necessary to make a statement with respect to travel policy.
  • Review Workers Compensation, travel accident, auto, liability and management liability insurance coverage to determine whether policies should be endorsed to provide contingent coverage. In most cases, those policies will not exclude coverage however there may be options to broaden coverage or increase sub-limits.

The challenges associated with the sharing economy may still in their infancy, but trends tied to technology and consumer behavior tend to move rapidly. The risk management community needs to collaborate to get out ahead of this emerging risk.

Eric Silverstein

Eric Silverstein is a senior vice president and member of the National Casualty Broking Practice at Willis Towers Watson.

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