Recently, the French government made an attempt to regulate how Airbnb and other online accommodation providers operate, without having to go through the EU first.
However, after being taken to the ECJ, a ruling now says that this is a breach of EU rules, and it compromises “free movement of information society services”.
The ruling could go on to affect other member states that might be looking to regulate or restrict the services in the future.
The authorities in France argue that it should be able to apply the same rules to Airbnb as it applies to letting agents.
The advocate general in the case disagreed, saying that Airbnb is a digital service, not a letting agent, and it should be regulated accordingly.
He added that if an EU member state wanted to regulate the service or any similar service, it would need to “notify the commission of its intention and ask the member state of origin to take measures”. Otherwise, it would be prohibited from applying its own rules.
Airbnb is based in Ireland. And as a member of the European Union, other members aren’t allowed to regulate the services, as it falls single market cross-border trade rules.
The service has been under a lot of scrutiny recently and has been accused of encouraging landlords to convert their homes into holiday lets to get larger profits.
This has had a knock-on effect across the tourist industry. It’s also caused an increase in prices for rented houses in cities that are tourist hotspots.
Although the advocate general ruling isn’t legally binding as yet, it will most likely be followed up by a court ruling. That means that there’s a high chance of it being approved by the court.
While opinions issued by the advocate general are not binding, they are usually followed by the court, and a good guide to the way in which it will ultimately rule on a case.
In a company statement, an Airbnb spokesperson 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.”
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