The European Commission has found Airbnb in breach of the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive, and the regulation on legal jurisdiction.
In its statement demanding Airbnb align its terms and conditions and pricing in line with EU rules, the EC listed the issues as follows:
“The presentation of Airbnb’s pricing, as well as the distinction between private and professional hosts does not comply with the requirements of EU law, in particular [with] the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
“Airbnb should modify the way it presents information on pricing from the initial search to ensure that, whenever properties are offered, the consumer is provided with the total price inclusive of all the applicable mandatory charges and fees.”
The platform should also “clearly identify if the offer is made by a private host or a professional, as the consumer protection rules differ”.
In addition, the EC insisted: “Airbnb’s terms should 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 consumers are informed in a clear and understandable manner about their rights.
“With regards to Airbnb, this means:
“The company should not mislead consumers by going to a court in a country different from the one in their member state of residence.
“Airbnb cannot decide unilaterally which terms remain in effect in case of termination of a contract.
“Airbnb cannot deprive consumers [of] their basic legal rights to sue a host in case of personal harm or other damages.
“Airbnb cannot unilaterally change terms and conditions without clearly informing consumers and giving them the possibility to cancel the contract.
“Terms of services cannot confer unlimited and discretionary power to Airbnb on the removal of content.
“Termination or suspension of a contract by Airbnb should . . . not deprive the consumer from the right to adequate compensation or right to appeal.
“Airbnb’s policy on refunds, compensation and collection of damage claims should . . . not deprive consumers of their right to activate available legal remedies.
“Finally, Airbnb should provide an easily accessible link to the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform.”
The Commission and member states’ national consumer authorities work together on enforcement of EU consumers’ rights within the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) network.
The CPC coordinates approaches to consumer protection “to tackle widespread infringements” across Europe.
An investigation of the commercial practices and terms of service of Airbnb in Ireland, published alongside the EU statement, highlighted a series of “misleading” practices.
It concluded Airbnb should “prevent third-party traders from offering accommodation/properties on the platform without clearly disclosing their professional motives.
“The platform should inform consumers . . . what criteria it applies to select suppliers operating through it and . . . what checks it performs in relation to their reliability.”
It noted: “The distinction between professional providers and private host peers may influence the decisions of consumers . . . The distinction has implications for the question of whether the transaction is protected by consumer protection rules.
“The lack of distinction between private host peers and professional providers on Airbnb’s website is likely to deceive consumers.”
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