Brussels is taking on the world’s biggest accommodation-sharing site, which is reportedly violating European Union consumer rules.
European Commission and EU consumer authorities are calling on Airbnb to align their terms and conditions with EU consumer rules and be transparent on their presentation of prices.
“More and more consumers book their holiday accommodation online and this sector has brought many new opportunities to holidaymakers,” said Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “But popularity cannot be an excuse for not complying with EU consumer rules. Consumers must easily understand what for and how much they are expected to pay for the services and have fair rules e.g. on cancellation of the accommodation by the owner. I expect Airbnb to follow up swiftly with the right solutions.”
According to a Commission press release, Airbnb’s current pricing presentation and a number of its terms do not comply with the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive, and the Regulation on the jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters.
The company has until the end of August to present their proposals. Once Airbnb proposes solutions to rectify this, the Commission and the EU consumer authorities will review the proposed changes. If they are not considered satisfactory, Airbnb could face an enforcement action.
According to the Commission, for Airbnb to comply with the requirements of EU law, in particular the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, it should modify how it presents information on pricing from the initial search on their website, in order to ensure that, whenever properties are offered, the consumer is provided with the total price inclusive of all the applicable mandatory charges and fees, such as service and cleaning charges, or, when it is not possible to calculate the final price in advance, clearly inform the consumer that additional fees might apply. Also, the company should clearly distinguish between private or professional hosts.
Another issue is for Airbnb’s terms of services to be brought into conformity with European consumer law. The Unfair Contract Terms Directive requires that standard terms and conditions do not create a significant imbalance between the parties’ rights and obligations, to the detriment of the consumer. The directive also requires that terms are drafted in plain and intelligible language so that consumers are informed in a clear and understandable manner about their rights.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Airbnb have made a statement on the issue, saying they take this issue seriously and are committed to being as transparent as possible for our community.
“Guests are made aware of all fees, including service charges and taxes, before confirming their decision to book a listing, and we will work together with the authorities to clarify the points raised,” they added in the statement.