The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Airbnb is an online platform rather than a real estate broker, allowing the firm to avoid further local regulation across Europe, according to The Guardian.
Cities around the world are increasingly seeking to regulate Airbnb, to address concern over its impact on local neighborhoods and housing markets.
The new ECJ ruling stems from a complaint by a French tourism association, saying the platform should need a real estate license to operate. Without one, they argued, Airbnb is in violation of France’s Hoguet Law.
The court has now ruled that Airbnb operates primarily as an “intermediation service,” helping to connect guests and hosts with “a tool to facilitate the conclusion of contracts.” As such, it should be classified as an “information society service” under EU Directive 2000/31 on electronic commerce.
In 2017, the ECJ ruled against Uber in a similar case, ruling that the ridesharing company is operating a transportation service rather than strictly a platform. In the new Airbnb ruling, the court explained that Uber wields much greater influence over the conditions for its drivers than Airbnb over its hosts. Unlike Uber, Airbnb does not set rental prices or select hosts and properties.
Airbnb, the court said, is “not aimed only at providing immediate accommodation services, but rather it consists essentially of providing a tool for presenting and finding accommodation for rent, thereby facilitating the conclusion of future rental agreements.”
It also noted that the platform is “in no way indispensable to the provision of accommodation services, since the guests and hosts have a number of other channels in that respect, some of which are long-standing.”
The court also said France had failed to notify the European Commission of a new licensing requirement for Airbnb.
The Commission has indicated that it will update safety and liability rules for tech platforms with its upcoming Digital Services Act.
Airbnb said in a statement:
“We welcome this judgment and want to move forward and continue working with cities on clear rules that put local families and communities at the heart of sustainable 21st century travel. We want to be good partners to everyone and already we have worked with more than 500 governments and authorities to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay tax.”
The ruling is a well-timed piece of good news for Airbnb, which plans to go public at some point next year.
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