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posted on April 11th, 2017

FIGHTING FOR EMERGING ECONOMIES

As Turo’s resident Super Patriot, I love every single opportunity to spend time in our nation’s capital, drinking in the history and walking in the footsteps of our greatest national leaders. In a moment of stars aligning, this week’s community party will be held on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday! And will I probably pretend that the party is actually a birthday party for TJ, Founding Father and third President of this great nation? Yessiree.

With Jefferson on my mind, I recall the little-remembered fact that he spent a good bit of his time in Annapolis, MD, as a Congressional Delegate, when it was our baby nation’s capital in 1784. Jefferson probably rode his horse for days from Charlottesville, VA to Annapolis. Imagine how  much nicer it would have been to just pick up a car from a Turo host and zip across those 150 Virginia miles in a just few short hours.

A Maryland roadblock  

But these days, it’s possible that not even a man of Thomas Jefferson’s stature would be able to rent a car from Turo in Maryland if some legislators had their way. In this new world of ride sharing, home sharing, and car sharing, the Maryland legislature is considering legislation presented to them by traditional rental car companies that would require car sharing platforms like Turo to be subject to the same regulatory requirements as the incumbent players in the car rental industry. Turo is actively lobbying against this legislation, since in many cases the requirements are decades old, and couldn’t have anticipated an emerging economy where private citizens offer to share their cars with other people.

The bill as originally drafted, for example, would mandate that the Turo host’s personal insurance would be secondary to Turo’s protection package, which would be primary. We want Turo’s protection to be primary and exclusive for our hosts. For years, we have championed the type of insurance that leaves the owner out of the insurance equation in case of an incident while their car is rented since their involvement would be circumstantial — Turo’s protection would be primary and the owner’s insurance wouldn’t be docked. This stance is a cornerstone of our offering to car owners — if someone else gets into an accident while driving their car, the car owner won’t be held responsible. Because the legislative language was lifted right from the traditional car rental statute, it doesn’t fit and should not apply. If enacted, the language would make our customers vulnerable to undue insurance claims because it was never intended to — and shouldn’t — apply to peer-to-peer car sharing.

And that would be a shame — because the Turo Maryland community is bustling! To date, Maryland has seen tens of thousands of rental days and nearly 60,000 registered Turo travelers. There are hundreds of privately-owned cars for rent in Maryland, ranging from affordable daily drivers at $17 per day to high-end luxury cars for $800 per day. Our car owner community is 350 strong in Maryland, and hosts like Erika L., as reported recently in the Baltimore Sun, has grossed nearly $6,000 renting out her smart fortwo. Our platform offers unprecedented economic opportunity for Maryland car owners like Erika, or Rodrigo V. out of Bethesda with a vintage Fiat, or Patrick C. in Baltimore. They’re able to turn their depreciating assets into earning engines with real ROI, and, as independent car owners, shouldn’t be subject to the same rigorous taxes, fees, and regulations as traditional car rental agencies.

Erika’s smart fortwo, Baltimore, MD

To highlight the anticompetitive nature of this bill put forth by the American Car Rental Association and Enterprise Holdings, Inc., the Turo Government Relations team has been lobbying and meeting with legislators, and even testified at two hearings this spring in Annapolis. The bills didn’t make it to a floor vote in the 2017 session, and so they’re dead for the year. However, just as they’ve attempted to do for ride sharing (Uber, Lyft) and home sharing (Airbnb), the Senate would like to create a similar framework for peer-to-peer car sharing. Accordingly, Turo will participate in a working session this summer to discuss what such a framework might look like.

Rodrigo’s Fiat Spider

Frustrated by the efforts of incumbent, monolithic businesses to stifle tech-enabled emerging economies but invigorated by the democratic process championed by my boy TJ all those years ago, the Turo Government Relations team is dedicated to continue fighting for our customers’ ability to use the platform without unreasonable restrictions.

If you’re interested in helping Turo fight this fight or staying abreast of the evolving situation, please get in touch with me by joining OpenRoad, our public policy website.

Michelle is VP, Head of Government Relations at Turo. When she’s not advocating for a favorable regulatory environment for Turo, you might find her with her husband and two children at the SAP Arena cheering on their favorite neighborhood hockey team, the San Jose Sharks.

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