The Online Intermediation Platforms Market Inquiry (OIPMI) at the Competition Commission has released the schedule of participants for the public hearings to be on 2–19 November 2021.
The Competition Commission announced its inquiry in February , stating that it would encompass companies such as Takealot, Uber Eats, and Airbnb.
It specifically singled out Takealot as an important focus of its investigation because of its share of the local ecommerce sector and the dual role played by the company as an online marketplace and a seller of products.
The Competition Commission raised concerns over potential conflicts of interest when a platform operator offers a marketplace for sellers while also being a merchant itself.
It said that this may provide companies with the incentive to favour themselves and squeeze out competitors.
Takealot is also much bigger than any other online retailer in South Africa, which the Commission stated warrants concern over its potential dominance of the market.
“In ecommerce, Takealot (including Superbalist) is substantially larger than other online platforms and operates a marketplace on which many business users are now dependent as a route to market,” it said.
The Commission stated that the following sectors would be investigated as part of the inquiry:
- Ecommerce marketplaces
- Online classifieds
- Travel and accommodation aggregators
- Short term accommodation intermediation
- Food delivery
- App stores
- Other platforms identified in the course of the inquiry
Other platforms named explicitly in the document included Airbnb, Mr D Food, Uber Eats, TravelStart, Autotrader, Cars.co.za, Property24, Private Property, the Google Play Store, and the Apple App Store.
It later clarified that the inquiry would not be limited to South African ecommerce businesses and would include international players like Amazon .
While most of the slots for its upcoming hearings have been allocated, the Commission said it is still confirming time slots with a few participants and the final schedule will be published on 27 October.
Any online platforms, business users or industry organisations that still wish to participate may approach the Commission prior to this date through email — firstname.lastname@example.org .
The public hearings will be virtual and the public can watch the hearings on the Competition Commission’s YouTube channel .
The following companies have confirmed presentation slots during the public hearings:
Interactive Entertainment South Africa (IESA)
App Developer Studio
Google and Google Play
Travel accommodation platforms
Xtreme Car Rental
Google search, travel and shopping
Sisters on the Move
Restaurant Association of South Africa
Sandown Motor Holdings
The public has 60 days from Monday April 15 to submit comments on the Tourism Amendment Bill, which will regulate short-term accommodation in the so-called shared economy, Blessing Manale, chief director of communications at the Department of Tourism, told Fin24 on Monday.
Airbnb is an example of such a business model.
“We are not trying to ‘kill’ Airbnb-type accommodation, but there is currently no legislation stipulating who is responsible for regulating that industry,” he said.
The bill was published in the Government Gazette on Friday April 12 and re-published on Monday April 15, due to a printing glitch. The bill will enable the minister of tourism to determine certain so-called “thresholds” for short-term home rentals.
According to Manale, these could include a limit on the number of nights guests could stay at an establishment. It could perhaps even limit the number of guests due to potentially larger water consumption in an area. Thresholds could also look at pricing, zoning, how much an establishment can earn and maybe even regulating matters like security.
“It is ultimately to ensure we bring all the various types of short-term accommodation into one pot. We want to make sure that whatever shared economy business model comes here, we are ready for it,” said Manale.
The Department of Tourism plans to discuss with provincial and local governments on issues like oversight on zoning and whether Airbnbs-type establishments should only be allowed to operate in certain areas.
“We are proposing to first empower the minister of tourism and then he can decide what should be the biggest priorities, for instance for thresholds,” said Manale.
He emphasised that it is not about whether operations like Airbnb and should exist or not.
“They are, however, mostly self-regulating. We now just want to hear both sides – from those having such accommodation establishments and those who feel it is hampering the more ‘formal’ tourism industry,” he said.
“The bill is now under public consultation. We just want to gather input from the industry, local government and even tax experts on how to deal with income, for instance, that might be falling through the cracks.”
The department is in the process of holding seminars and workshops to inform people about the bill and its proposed changes for the shared-economy.
“There is still a long way to go,” said Manale.
“From government’s side, we realise that it will be useless to make regulations if we cannot ‘police’ it,” he said.
“Those running the likes of Airbnbs need not worry that government wants to ‘kill’ the shared economy in the tourism industry. It is a business model that works. The intention of the bill is rather to create the best outcome for the local tourism industry.”
More information on how to submit comments on the bill can be obtained from Mmaditonki Setwaba on email@example.com or 012 444 6312.
Airbnb has proved a lifesaver to many South African women hosts, giving an especially welcome financial boost to single mothers, according to latest statistics released by the hotel and guest lodge booking platform.
In the report Across the BRICS: How Airbnb connects the emerging economies, the platform detailed how the service contributed towards GDP in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
“South Africa has seen the strongest growth in guest arrivals from BRICS nations at 380%, with explosive year-over-year growth in guests arriving from Brazil, by a factor of nine. South African hosts’ total income earned from BRICS-based guests ranks the highest of the five countries at $1.88m (about R24.3m),” the report read.
“The typical woman host in South Africa earned nearly $2 000 (R25 917.10) last year, more income than earned by the typical women hosts in other countries. More than 60% of women hosts in South Africa are Superhosts – hosts who are specially designated by Airbnb as hosting guests frequently, receiving a high number of five-star reviews, and being exceptionally responsive to guests and committed to reservations with 60% of South African women hosts with children, i.e., single mothers, use (sic) their Airbnb income to help them stay in their homes,” it said.
About 5.3 million Airbnb users from developing nations generated more than $467m over the past year, according to latest statistics released by the app.
The year-on-year growth rate of intra-BRICS guest arrivals was reported at 134%, according to the study.
With interest in travel and tourism on the rise, reaching 10% of global GDP in 2017, Airbnb allows BRICS countries to benefit in their share of the income, said the report.
Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service that helps people lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms with 97% of the listing price going directly to hosts.
By Kyle Venktess for Fin24