16:29 GMT +311 December 2017
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    'Rent-a-Person' Apps Trigger Safety Concerns in China

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    China's recent rise of apps that offer people for rent has also raised concerns among users and experts alike over their lack of supervision and other safety issues when people meet offline.

    The similarly named apps, such as Zuwoba ("Rent Me") and Zuwome ("Will you rent me?"), are all based on the same O2O model — they connect users with people offering a skill or service for an hourly fee.

    "I only share meals, hang out and chat right now. But next month I get my driver's license so I can add another skill," said 22-year-old "Youyou," a model in Anhui Province who charges 88 yuan an hour on Zuwome.

    The reporter discovered the majority of listings were young women like Youyou. Many use alluring profile photos. A common listed occupation is "student." Similar to dating apps, users pay a membership fee to receive contact details.

    While most times her renters have been respectful, Youyou said she had encountered some older men looking for more than a chat.

    "The thing that makes me feel I'm not safe is that there are a lot of uncertainties," said Youyou.

    Anyone caught using the platform for illegal services will have their accounts blocked, said a Zuwome customer service representative, adding the platform is unable to monitor what happens when people meet offline.

    The platforms could also set up users as prime targets for bait and switches, said Sun Chenglong, a lawyer with Beijing Yingke (Hefei) Law Firm. 

    There are considerable safety risks as there are no specific laws to manage such "grey market" apps, said Sun.

    This article was originally published in the Global Times.

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