Airbnb offers greater price transparency in Europe after regulatory threats

Following pressure from the Norwegian Consumer Authority and negotiations with the European Commission, which threatened to take coercive action, Airbnb has revamped the way it displays property prices in the region so that consumers see the total price in advance on the first page of the ads when they include the desired dates. . in Europe already displays the total price including occupancy taxes in the initial view of a property listing, while Vrbo in the region simply displays the base rate for one night when the listing appears for the first night. first time.

Airbnb’s initial price display for a home in Paris now includes room rate, cleaning fees, service charges, and local occupancy taxes. does not charge a service fee to guests, but its initial list view shows the total costs, including the total base rate for the room or accommodation, as well as VAT and tourist tax in Paris, for example.

In announce How Airbnb’s price displays in Europe now comply with European Union law, the EU said: “There are no longer any mandatory surprise charges that appear on the following pages.

Airbnb has agreed to disclose whether an listing is from an individual or business host, invite users to insert desired dates to see the actual total price, and post an easy-to-find link to conflict resolution.

Take away food

There are several takeaways – even quirks – about the way Airbnb and its competitors display their rates in Europe and abroad.

Airbnb is less transparent in other geographies

While Airbnb released a statement in response to the European announcement under the headline Building a more transparent platform, he apparently chose to sacrifice the new European transparency in other parts of the world.

For example, for a Parisian property labeled Eiffel Tower, Saint Germain Des Prés, Montparnasse, the initial listing display in the UK shows the rate per night and the total price, and users can get a breakdown of all charges. if they click on the question mark.

An Airbnb ad for the same Parisian property seen from the United States is similar, but it does not disclose the taxes and occupancy fees of $ 6 – and therefore the actual total price – until consumers click on the second one. screen.

Airbnb treats the listings Skift viewed from the US in Chicago and Baja California, Mexico the same – not disclosing taxes and occupancy charges, and therefore the actual total rate, up to a later screen.

Asked about the dichotomy between how Airbnb handles price disclosures in Europe versus other regions, spokesperson Bernard D’heygere said in an email: “Laws and regulations differ from city to city to another, from one state to another and from one country to another. We worked closely with the Cooperation network for consumer protection on a solution that works for European consumers.

D’heygere noted that in other regions, customers see the full cost breakdown before booking a property, but they don’t necessarily see the full price in their first view of the listing.

“We are continually looking for ways to update and improve our pricing display to make sure it is as effective as possible for our community,” he said. “Guests from outside the EEA [European Economic Area] are advised of all charges, including service charges and taxes, before confirming their decision to book a listing, and customers are reminded that additional charges may apply on search pages.

Vrbo is not as transparent

Vrbo, owned by Expedia, is much less transparent than Airbnb and in how Vrbo shows its rates to customers, both in Europe and elsewhere.

Vrbo did not respond to a request for comment.

When viewing a list of Paris from the United States on Vrbo, a studio would simply display the rate per night in an initial display – not the total rate for multiple nights – and only display the total rate when users clicked on the second page. Then, if users were looking to see a breakdown of the total rate, including rate per night, cleaning fee, service charge, and resort tax, they would have to click again for a pop-up window to open. with additional pricing information.

Airbnb in the US displays the rate per night and “total” (minus occupancy taxes) on the first screen, and users can click a question mark to see the rate for the nights booked, plus charges cleaning and service. But Airbnb only shows the total rate on the third screen after clicking “Book”. displays the rate for the number of nights specified on the first screen, and on the second screen notes that this rate excludes 6% and 9.5% city taxes in Baltimore, Maryland, for example. You only get the dollar amount of these taxes and the total rate on a third screen after clicking an “Book Now” button.

Of course, it is advantageous – but not transparent – for the three housing-sharing companies and others to delay posting the total rate because their rates appear lower than when taxes are added, which could cause them make it appear more competitive on various platforms.

But the European authorities, at least, no longer support these dodges of transparency.

The question of transparency in hospitality, of course, does not only revolve around house sharing. The District of Columbia sued Marriott International this week over the issue of hotel accommodation costs.

Airbnb’s compliance with the requirements of European regulators on the issue of price transparency does not mean that all is going well for the region’s colocation giant.

On issues such as Airbnb’s impact on local housing markets and overtourism, the cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, ​​Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia and Vienna have pleaded with the European Union. to intervene to ensure that Airbnb complies with municipal laws.

Airbnb responded with a open letter citing its supposedly positive economic impact on local economies and expressed a desire to work with regulators to “help more people benefit from modern, healthy and sustainable tourism in the EU”.

Global tourism journalist Rosie Spinks contributed to this report.

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