Wednesday 29 January 2020 12:52 pm

Airbnb backs creation of EU digital regulator after court victory

Airbnb has backed calls for the creation of a digital regulator for the European Union after winning a landmark court case in the bloc that meant it could be classed as an online platform rather than a property agent. 

The short-term home rental platform said a new watchdog should form part of the discussion around the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act, which aims to upgrade safety rules for digital platforms and services.

“While our thinking on this topic is still in its early stages… we are clear that we support calls for a single European oversight body for digital services,” said Chris Lehane, an Airbnb senior vice president, at a briefing in London. 

Airbnb won its legal battle to remain exempt from onerous European property regulations in a landmark ruling by the EU’s top court last month.

The site’s rapid growth over the past decade has posed a challenge for the traditional hotel industry, as well as local authorities across the globe. 

Authorities in New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris have all accused the company of worsening housing shortages in their cities and pushing out lower-income residents. 

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Airbnb says that it, cities, hosts and customers would all benefit from better regulation of the sector. 

“We strongly believe that housing policy and regulations of short-term rentals within that does need to take place at the local level,” Lehane said at this morning’s briefing. 

Writing to European cities to announce the company’s support for a new regulator, Lehane said a new body could help ensure regulation in the sector was consistent and trusted, and would be able to mediate disputes. 

He added that Airbnb would announce a partnership to provide cities with independently-published data on the impact of short-term rentals within Europe, and wanted to work on improved ways to collect tourist taxes from guests. 

Airbnb announced last year that it would introduce new global safety measures following a fatal Halloween shooting at an Airbnb rental in California. These include a ban on so-called party houses, a 24/7 hotline, and a review of “high risk reservations”.

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