Airbnb offers greater price transparency in Europe after regulatory threats

Following pressure from the Norwegian Consumer Authority and negotiations with the European Commissionwhich threatened enforcement action, Airbnb revamped the way it displays real estate prices in the area so consumers see the full price up front on the front page of listings when they include desired dates . in Europe already shows the full price including occupancy taxes in the initial view of a property listing, while Vrbo in the region just shows the base rate for one night when the listing appears for the first time.

Airbnb’s initial price display for a home in Paris now includes the room rate, cleaning fee, service charge and local occupancy tax. doesn’t charge a service fee to guests, but its initial list shows total costs, including the total base rate for the room or house, plus VAT and city tax in Paris, for example. .

In announcing how Airbnb’s displayed prices in Europe now comply with European Union law, the EU said: “There are now no more surprise mandatory fees appearing on the following pages.”

Airbnb has agreed to disclose whether a listing is from an individual or a professional host, prompt users to insert their 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 list their prices in Europe and abroad.

Airbnb is less transparent in other geographies

While Airbnb issued a statement in response to the European announcement under the title Building a more transparent platformit seems to have chosen to sacrifice the new European transparency in other parts of the world.

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

An Airbnb ad for the same Parisian property seen from the US is similar, but it doesn’t disclose the $6 taxes and occupancy fees — and therefore the actual total price — until consumers click on the second one. screen.

Airbnb handles listings that Skift viewed from the United States in Chicago and Baja California, Mexico, in the same way – by not disclosing taxes and occupancy fees, and therefore the actual total rate, until on a later screen.

Asked about the dichotomy of 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. state to state and country to country. We have worked closely with the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network on a solution that works for European consumers.

D’heygere noted that in other regions, customers see the full fee 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 price display to ensure it is as effective as possible for our community,” he said. “Guests 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 displays its prices to customers, both in Europe and elsewhere.

Vrbo did not respond to a request for comment.

Looking at a Paris ad from the United States on Vrbo, one studio simply showed the rate per night in an initial display — not the total rate for multiple nights — and only showed 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 occupancy tax, they would have to click again for a pop-up to appear. opens with additional fare information.

Airbnb in the US displays the rate per night and the “total” (minus occupancy taxes) on the first screen, and users can click a question mark to see the rate for nights booked, plus fees cleaning and service. But Airbnb only shows the total price on the third screen after you click “Book”. displays the rate for the specified number of nights on the first screen, and on the second screen notes that the rate excludes 6% and 9.5% municipal 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 “I reserve” button.

Of course, it’s advantageous – but not transparent – for the three colocation companies and others to delay posting the total rate because their rates seem lower than when taxes are added, which could make them more competitive on a variety of platforms.

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

The issue of transparency in hospitality, of course, doesn’t just revolve around home sharing. the The District of Columbia sued Marriott International this week on the gotcha hotel-resort fee issue.

Airbnb’s compliance with European regulators’ demands on the issue of price transparency doesn’t mean all is well for the region’s colocation giant.

Regarding 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 implored the European Union to intervene and 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 travel journalist Rosie Spinks contributed to this report.

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