11:06, April 30 243 0 theguardian.com

2019-04-30 11:06:05
Airbnb should be seen as a digital service provider, ECJ advised

Airbnb has taken a step closer to avoiding onerous national regulations after an adviser to the European court of justice said the company should be regarded as a digital service provider.

Maciej Szpunar, one the ECJ’s advocates general, found that Airbnb was what Brussels would describe as an information society service, a status which comes with the right to operate freely across the EU.

Szpunar rejected the claims of a French tourism association that the company should face the same accounting, insurance and financial obligations as traditional providers of real estate.

Airbnb, which is registered in Ireland, argues that its commercial activities in matching property owners with people seeking accommodation could not be regarded as real estate brokerage.

Szpunar said on Tuesday that the French government had not properly notified the European commission and the authorities in Ireland of its intention to apply French law to the company. He said Airbnb was an online service that connected potential guests with hosts who offered short-term accommodation.

It is unclear what the opinion would have been had the French authorities made the required notification.

The opinion is non-binding, although the court takes the advice of its advocates general in 80% of cases. Airbnb said it welcomed the opinion as it provided a “a clear overview of what rules apply”.

The development will likely be a boon to Airbnb, which has been fighting claims from cities around the world, including Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona, that its services are changing the face of neighbourhoods and need to be more heavily regulated.

France is Airbnb’s largest market after the US, and Paris is its biggest single city market, with about 65,000 homes listed.

A spokesman for the company said: “We welcome the opinion of the advocate general, which provides a clear overview of what rules apply to collaborative economy platforms like Airbnb and how these rules help create opportunities for consumers.

“We also want to be good partners and already we have worked with more than 500 governments around the world on measures to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay their fair share of tax.

“As we move forward, we want to continue working with everyone to put locals at the heart of sustainable 21st-century travel.”