Airbnb should be free to operate across Europe: EU legal adviser

FILE PHOTO: The Airbnb logo is seen on a small mini-pyramid under the glass pyramid of the Louvre museum in Paris, France, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Airbnb should be treated as a digital service provider and free to operate across the European Union, an adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said on Tuesday following a complaint by a French tourism association.

The home rental service welcomed the advice, saying it provided ‘a clear outline of the applicable rules’ after the French tourism group filed a complaint claiming it had acted as an estate agent and breached EU ownership rules.

Several municipalities around the world, including Paris and Barcelona, ​​are concerned that the success of Airbnb will turn some neighborhoods into sterile and tourist-only zones, and want greater restrictions on rental platforms and their displays.

ECJ Advocate General Maciej Szupunar said Airbnb Ireland, from which the US company runs its French website, “can be considered an information society service” which should benefit from the free flow of EU information.

France is Airbnb’s second largest market after the United States. Paris, one of the most visited cities in the world, is its largest single market, with around 65,000 homes listed.

The referral to the ECJ by a French court follows wider French concerns about unfair competition towards Parisian hotels.

Szupunar described Airbnb as an online service that connects potential customers with hosts offering short-term accommodation. ECJ judges normally follow the non-binding opinions of its advisers and usually deliver their decision two to four months later.

Founded in 2008 in San Francisco and with a European base in Ireland, Airbnb connects people wishing to rent all or part of their accommodation to temporary hosts, via a website.

Szupunar said any restrictions should only be considered on a case-by-case basis for consumer protection reasons and that the European Commission, the EU executive and host country Ireland should be informed.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; edited by Philip Blenkinsop and Alexander Smith

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