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19/12/2019

Airbnb is a provider of Information Society Services

Airbnb won its battle to remain exempt from onerous European property regulations on 19th December, as the EU’s top court ruled it was an online platform and not a property agent.

The case came before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) following a complaint by French hotel association AHTOP. AHTOP has more than 30,000 members ranging from bed and breakfasts to youth hostels and real estate agents, had urged France to change what it called were ‘archaic rules’. The issue underlines the quandary regulators face in dealing with new online services venturing into traditional businesses, but not subjected to the same rules. For Airbnb, the French case is significant as the International Olympic Committee has agreed to promote the company for accommodation during the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Judges in essence accepted the company’s arguments that it is an online platform and not a property agent.

The ruling will boost online platforms’ fight against similar issues in other countries. It means that any attempt by another member state to enforce restrictive requirements on similar services is likely to face an uphill battle going forward.

The European Holiday Home Association (EHHA) welcomed the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union on whether an online intermediation service connecting potential guests with accommodation services to rent constitutes an information society service.

The judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Case C-390/18 involving Airbnb Ireland and French hotel lobby AhTop, has confirmed the classification of Airbnb as a provider of ‘information society services’ as defined in the e-Commerce Directive, consisting in connecting potential guests with professional  or  non-professional  hosts offering short-term accommodation for remuneration via an electronic platform, while also providing services that are ancillary to that intermediation service. In its judgement the Court also reiterated that a European Union Member State cannot take measures restricting the free movement of information society services, in this case Airbnb Ireland, originating in another Member State.

The EHHA, as an industry body for the short-term rental sector (STR) industry, welcomes the legal clarification provided by the Court on the definition of short-term rental platform services and on the status of information society services within the Single Market. National and local authorities can and do regulate short-term rental platforms and today’s decision from the CJEU will not change this fact. However, such regulatory activity has to be done in line with EU legal frameworks — including the e-Commerce Directive. Too often, local and regional rules across Member States lead to regulatory fragmentation and challenges for both short-term rental platforms and consumers. Today’s judgement represents a welcome step towards providing greater regulatory clarity and consistency across the EU.

As stated in the joint EHHA and ETTSA ‘Roadmap for the short-term rental sector – towards a more sustainable future’, we are committed to cooperating with public authorities to facilitate compliance by short-term rental accommodation providers. Building on recent efforts by the European Union to foster the collaborative economy and short-term rental sector and clarify the applicable legal environment, we welcome further efforts to provide much-needed clarity and look forward to continued engagement with authorities and interested stakeholders across the EU to support the long term and sustainable growth of the vacation rental sector in Europe.

You can read the EHHA press release here.
Airbnb’s response.

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