Airbnb Wins Special Treatment: Won’t Be Subjected to EU Property Rules

Brian Chesky CEO of Airbnb
Justin Sullivan/Getty

Airbnb has scored a key legal victory after a European court ruled Thursday that the online property rental company won’t be subjected to E.U. property regulations, following a bitter dispute with the French tourism and hotel industry.

The European Court of Justice said in its written decision that Airbnb should be classified as an information platform, not a property agent. The Luxembourg court also found that Airbnb doesn’t set a cap on what landlords charge tenants, and that consumers “have a number of other channels” outside of Airbnb to find lodging.

The case was brought by a French association of tourism and hotel professionals known as AHTOP, or “l’Association pour un hébergement et un tourisme professionnels.”

AHTOP  has maintained that Airbnb doesn’t merely connect two parties through its platform but also acts as an estate agent without holding a professional license.

But the court ruled that Airbnb is, in essence, an “information society service” that exists in a way that is  “distinct from the subsequent service to which it relates.”

Airbnb’s legal win has come as somewhat of a surprise since the same European court ruled two years ago that ride-sharing service Uber should be classified as a transport services company, thereby subjecting the company to stricter regulation.

The French tourism industry has long resented Airbnb for the negative impact it has had on hotels. France still ranks as the most popular destination for tourists worldwide.

The San Francisco-based Airbnb has been accused of acting with impunity in foreign countries, throwing its considerable weight around to achieve its business objectives. At the same time, the company has taken left-wing political stands at home and abroad.

Airbnb infamously ran an anti-Trump commercial prior to the 2018 State of the Union address in which the company mocked President Trump’s alleged comment about “shithole” countries.

“We heard there’s been some expletive-filled interest in these beautiful destinations,” the commercial said, promoting stays in such dangerous destinations as Haiti and El Salvador, using the #WeAccept hashtag.

Airbnb hired Obama attorney general Eric Holder in 2016 to help the company create an anti-discrimination policy. As part of Holder’s tenure, Airbnb promoted #WeAccept through various commercials and online promotions.

Airbnb also boycotted the West Bank last year, blocking all properties in Israeli settlements built in the West Bank. The decision was met with instant backlash, with Israeli officials accusing Airbnb of discriminatory practices.

The company later rescinded the decision following a slew of lawsuits.

“We will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank, but Airbnb will take no profits from this activity in the region,” said Airbnb in a release.

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