Regulatory puzzles

Interesting conundrum in Ben Evans’s weekly newsletter:

A German court has banned Uber for not applying with taxi regulations; conversely, AirBNB won in France: it can’t be forced to be regulated as an estate agent. The endless ‘software eats the world’ question: how far do we treat a new way of doing X in the same way as the old one? Uber is clearly a different way of doing what we previously called taxis and ‘limousines’ and should probably be subject to the same high-level policy objectives. (You might be able to achieve those objectives differently – you don’t need a physical meter to have a guaranteed fare because GPS can do that – but the objectives might not change.) On the other hand, AirBNB is not doing the same things that a conventional real estate agent (or hotel) does ‘but with an app and with GPS’ – it’s doing something different, and poses different questions (which might or might not require new regulation).

There’s no single regulatory bullet. It’s horses for courses.