U.S. Department of Commerce Releases New Report On Digital Matching Firms

Report provides first-ever government definition of "digital matching firms" and initial assessment of growing sector's size and scope


Friday, June 3, 2016

Today, the Department of Commerce released a report titled: "Digital Matching Firms: A New Definition in the 'Sharing Economy' Space." The report provides the first-ever government definition of "digital matching firms," which are companies that use Internet and smartphone-enabled apps to match service providers with consumers, help ensure trust and quality assurance via peer-rating services, and rely on flexible service providers who, when necessary, use their own assets. The report provides an initial assessment of the sector's size and scope based on publicly available data of the largest firms in the industry. It also examines the potential effect of what is commonly known as the "sharing economy" on consumers and service providers.

"New technologies, such as those created by digital matching firms, are sources of job creation, enablers of global trade and commerce, and key elements of America's competitiveness," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. "This report provides the first-ever government definition of the digital matching economy, which allows us to better understand the characteristics of digital matching firms, measure growth in this dynamic sector, and have conversations regarding public policy that are based on facts."

"If you've ever taken an Uber, driven for Lyft, rented a place on Airbnb, or listed your home on Homeaway, then you are part of the digital matching space," said Justin Antonipillai, who serves as Counselor to the Secretary with the Delegated Duties of Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. "This is a booming sector that's becoming part of our daily lives and transforming how we connect customers and merchants."

As "America's Innovation Agency," the Department of Commerce is responsible for fostering an environment that supports the invention and commercialization of new products and technologies. As a growing sector, digital matching firms past five years and there are a number of digital matching firms that are reportedly valued in the billions of dollars. Uber and Airbnb lead the pack at $62.5 billion and more than $25 billion, respectively.

Given their overall growth, digital matching firms are spurring policymakers to think about how to capture the benefits of technology-driven change without abandoning important aspects of the current industry practices, such as workers' rights, consumer safety, equal access, environmental protection, and privacy.

In addition to defining these "digital matching firms" the report offers an initial assessment of their size and scope based on publicly available data, as well as an examination of their potential effect on consumers and service providers. The report closes with an overview of the benefits and challenges emerging from the growth of these firms.

"It's critical that we can measure this new and growing part of the economy. We need to know how these kinds of products, services and jobs are affecting the income, safety, and prospects of our people. It highlights just how important data can be in our policy debates and in our daily lives," said Antonipillai.

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