EU Court Rules That Airbnb Is Not An Estate Agent

The top court of Europe has ruled that there is no need to for obtaining an estate agent’s license to operate in France for the accommodation booking service app Airbnb.

The court gave this ruling in reference to a case filed against Airbnb by the French tourism association alleging that the company did not have a license and hence was in violation of French property laws.

The verdict now means that there will not be any disruption in the services of the company in France for its customers.

This ruling will also serve as a precedent to follow for other countries and other EU regulators about the business status of Airbnb.

Airbnb was an “information society service” and not a property broker, said the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) while delivering its ruling. The judges hearing the case also struck out differences between the businesses of Airbnb and Uber based on the degree of control that the property-booking app could wield for transactions on property being done through its service.

It would “move forward and continue working with cities”, Airbnb said after the court ruling. .

Airbnb is a platform which acted as a market for those who wanted to rent out a room and those who seek to rent a room or a property. It was designed mainly for holiday-makers and intended for renting on a short-term basis. The company made money by charging a fee from the renter of property.

However according to the complaint filed by France’s Association for Professional Tourism and Accommodation (AHTOP), the business activities of Airbnb were similar to those that are undertaken by an estate agency but the company did not have a license to deal in property. That, according to the organization, violated a local act known as the Hoguet Law.

Te decision of the CJEU concluding the Airbnb was an “information society service” and not an estate agent was its observation that the platform of the company was not simply an “ancillary” or add-on service to a wider property business. The court said property owners were still able to to offer their homes for rent through other channels in addition to of Airbnb’s platform. It also said that there was no cap by Airbnb about the rent charged by home-owners and the company had no say over the issue.

Additionally, the CJEU noted that the European Commission had not been informed by the French authorities about the Hoguet Law when the Commission was preparing the EU directive on electronic commerce.

It suggested France’s “failure to fulfil its obligation” could be used as a defence in future court cases.

Contrary to the Airbnb case, the CJEU had ruled in December 2017 that Uber was not simply an “information society service” but a taxi firm.

Further, CJEU also distinguished between the two cases because the court was unable to conclusively affirm that Airbnb had any “decisive influence” over the accommodation offered on its platform.

(Adapted from BBC.com)

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