European Union outlines data-sharing plan to boost P2P rental transparency • TechCrunch

The European Commission has proposed rules for short-term rental platforms focused on boosting transparency and mandatory data sharing – in what looks like a ‘soft’ approach to addressing concerns over rising rentals holidays on platforms like Airbnb.

While P2P vacation rental platforms remain popular options for European citizens taking city breaks, they also continue to face opposition from residents of highly touristy cities for driving up housing costs.

The EU executive has been considering for some time how to tackle this popular but often controversial sector – opening a consultation last fall for a short-term rental (STR) initiative which he said he wanted to develop “responsible, equitable and reliable growth of short-term rental, within the framework of a balanced tourism ecosystem”.

The result is a proposal now centered on regulating data sharing by short-term rental platforms – an area it previously focused on, securing agreement with a number of major platforms (Airbnb, Booking .com, Expedia Group and Tripadvisor) back in March 2020 share some data so that the block’s statistics office can publish reports.

Today he said the new proposal aims to enhance the transparency of the P2P rental sector with the same aim of helping public authorities “ensure their balanced development within the framework of a sustainable tourism sector”.

“The new rules will improve the collection and sharing of data from hosts and online platforms. This will in turn inform effective and proportionate local policies to address the challenges and seize the opportunities related to the short-term rental sector,” the Commission suggested in a statement. Press release.

According to an official Questions and answers on the proposal, the package aims to harmonize the registration process for hosts and properties in order to generate a common set of data to help public authorities define policies for short-term rentals and make decisions about services supply.

The data that P2P rental platforms will be required to share under the proposal includes:

  • Data on the number of stays and guests;
  • The registration number; and
  • The web address (URL) of the short-term rental advertisements located in the territory of the requesting public authority.

“This information would identify unregistered lists and help enforce the registration requirement, further increasing transparency,” the Commission said.

The proposal will not affect the ability of public authorities to establish their own local rules for short-term rental accommodation, according to the Commission, which suggests that public authorities “will only have to adapt their registration system” . (Or create one if they don’t currently operate one.)

Registration systems will also need to be fully online and “user-friendly”, while requiring a similar set of relevant information about hosts and their properties. Upon completion, a host would receive a unique registration number.

“The proposal fully respects the principle of subsidiarity and the competences of public authorities”, he added, stressing that national and local authorities “retain the power to design rules and policies on short-term rentals, to address, for example, health and safety, town planning, security and taxation issues” — so long as the rules they lay down respect the principles of justification and proportionality enshrined in the European Services Directive.

He also notes that other rules – such as the Digital Services Act — can still apply to P2P rental platforms.

“The data collected on the basis of this proposal should allow public authorities to better assess the situation on the ground and to develop more targeted and proportionate rules,” he added.

The Commission said other elements of the framework will seek to:

  • Clarify rules to ensure registration numbers are displayed and verified: online platforms being required to allow hosts to display registration numbers on their platforms and to carry out random checks to see if hosts register and display the correct numbers, while public authorities may suspend registration numbers and requesting platforms to remove non-compliant hosts from the list
  • Streamline data sharing between online platforms and public authorities: online platforms will be required to share data on the number of nights rented and guests with public authorities, once a month, “in an automated way” – with lighter reporting “possibilities” foreseen for small and micro-platforms (the Commission suggests those that do not reach a monthly average of 2,500 hosts might only need to share data quarterly, with no requirement to automate reporting) – and public authorities able to receive this data via national “single digital entry points”
  • Allow data reuse, in aggregate form: the data generated under the proposal will feed, “in aggregated form”, the tourism statistics produced by Eurostat and will feed the future European data space on tourism. “This information will support the development of innovative tourism-related services”, suggests the Commission
  • Establish an effective implementation framework: Member States will be required to monitor the implementation of the transparency framework and put in place “relevant sanctions” in case of non-compliance

In a statement, Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager added:

The short-term rental sector has been stimulated by the platform economy but has not developed with sufficient transparency. With this proposal, we make it easier for hosts and platforms, large or small, to contribute to greater transparency in the sector. These sectoral rules will complement the general rules of the Digital Services Act, which establish a set of obligations and liability requirements for platforms operating in the EU.

The European Parliament and the Council will have to weigh in on the proposal before it is adopted, but the Commission has provided for a two-year implementation period after adoption and entry into force for platforms to adapt their systems to data sharing necessary. So the earliest it could be operational is, most likely, 2026.

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