Airbnb says it’s not a real estate agent, French hoteliers are talking nonsense

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Online rental marketplace Airbnb on Friday rejected a claim by a major French hotel association that it is a real estate agent and should be subject to ownership rules in a case that could affect other online services.

Airbnb logos are displayed at an Airbnb event in Tokyo, Japan on June 14, 2018. REUTERS / Issei Kato

Since its launch in San Francisco in 2008, Airbnb, which connects people wishing to rent all or part of their accommodation to temporary guests via a website, has grown rapidly.

The company, however, has clashed with hoteliers and authorities in New York cities of Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, accused of worsening the housing shortage and evicting low-income residents.

France is Airbnb’s second market after the United States, with more than 400,000 listings, and Paris is its largest single market, with 65,000 homes listed on its site.

Following a complaint from the AhTop association, which represents 30,000 hotels and unions, a French court referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJCE), the highest in Europe, based in Luxembourg .

Airbnb filed its submission to the ECJ earlier this week. The company could face an uphill battle if a decision on Uber is something to be done. In a landmark judgment in 2017, judges said Uber should be classified as a transportation service and dismissed its argument that it was just a digital app serving as an intermediary.

AhTop’s claim that the company should be subject to French real estate rules has no basis, an Airbnb spokeswoman said.

“Airbnb is simply providing the platform that allows hosts to connect directly to guests. Airbnb is not involved in the transaction between hosts and guests, ”she said.

“The French rules on real estate agents date from the 1970s and apply to real estate agents who buy and sell houses, not to platform companies. Airbnb provides an information society service.

This is not the case, said AhTop representative Quentin Michelon.

“Airbnb doesn’t just create relationships between two people, it creates a short-term rental market, helps set prices, centralizes payments, provides insurance services, publishes and advertises them,” he said. Michelon told Reuters.

“All these elements show that they are much more than a simple intermediation service. The way they make money is pretty clear, they provide short term rental service.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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