When responding to the EU’s plan for continent-wide regulations and data-sharing duties for short-term rental platforms, Airbnb asked the Commission to bolster compliance across the board, especially with Google Travel, which allows for direct STR bookings and thus eludes the definition of ‘online short-term rental platform’ as set out in the proposal.
Airbnb wants to demonstrate its commitment to the European Union’s proposed short-term rental (STR) legislation with a position paper that was shared between Airbnb Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market of the European Union. The meeting highlighted Airbnb’s strong stance in favor of new EU regulations.
However, Airbnb underlines key points of the proposal that the company wants to see fixed:
Building a data-sharing framework that works in practice:
Airbnb recognizes the attempts made by the Commission to harmonize platform data-sharing across the EU – for example by clearly defining the data points to be shared by larger platforms and the frequency of the data-sharing (Art 9.1)
However, the architecture of the data-sharing framework remains national. The existence of 27 different “Single” Data Entry Points will augment the likelihood of differences in how the technical interfaces are set up by each Member State and lead to compliance delays as we have recently seen with our experiences of a national API in France.
From our experience building these products, each technical difference between national systems will necessitate a dedicated product solution by the platform, which will incur significant compliance costs and new product builds for platforms and Member States and their local authorities.
A clearer role for the European Commission in assessing and verifying the compatibility of registration and other rules established by competent authorities
Airbnb calls for a stronger coordination role for the European Commission in assessing and verifying the compatibility of local rules and registration schemes with EU legal frameworks in the context of this Proposal (an extension of Art. 11). The Proposal confirms the role of Member States in assessing the compatibility of existing and new local registration schemes in relation to this Proposal and the broader EU Services Directive (Art 12.2(b)). Unfortunately, relying solely on Member State assessment has led to some discrepancies in host experience and fragmentation of the Single Market.
Enforcing the Services Directive in instances of disproportionate STR rules going beyond the scope of this Proposal:
This Proposal does not address instances of disproportionate local regulations going beyond registration and the context of data reporting. It will not address instances such as Barcelona, where renting rooms in primary residences is practically banned to the detriment of everyday, non-professional Hosts.
Or Berlin, where Hosts in primary residences require an onerous permit that is (rarely) granted with many burdensome restrictions.
Or Amsterdam, where only Hosts in primary residences are eligible for the required permit and can only host for 30 days per year.
Or Brussels, where onerous, restrictive requirements and lengthy application procedures are imposed on Hosts before they are granted a registration number. This, despite the Commission opening Infringement Proceedings against the Kingdom of Belgium.
A holistic approach to the STR landscape
Airbnb notes the reduced compliance burden for smaller platforms (Art 9.2) and understands that a larger active host network will necessarily engender more transparency obligations. However, it is essential that thisProposal (and other related pieces of EU legislation) serve to bolster compliance across the board, rather than encouraging rare bad actors to move to smaller platforms or, even more worryingly, to those large actors out of scope of this Proposal – for example, Google Travel, which allows for direct STR bookings and thus eludes the definition of ‘online short-term rental platform’ as set out in Art 3.6.
Host registration exemptions
Airbnb requests greater clarity with regard to how to treat cases of host registration exemptions when it comes to data reporting obligations. Many national and local authorities exempt certain types of lodgings (i.e., boats, private rooms, hotels, non-traditional residential accommodation, etc.), contracts (i.e., those communicated directly to the tax authorities as in Portugal) or longer-term rentals (defined at the local or national level) from registration or other compliance obligations, meaning these Hosts do not require a registration number to carry out their hosting activity.
Principles for registration
In addition to the registration principles outlined in Art. 4, the proposal should also stipulate that host registration procedures should be free to prevent the emergence of market access barriers for hosts, to encourage compliant activity, and to ensure proportionality for all hosts, including non-professional or occasional hosts.
Data minimization principles should be at the core of platform data collection requirements.
Platforms should only report data that they collect as part of their normal business. For example, the Proposal includes an obligation on the platform to report the number of guests who stay at an accommodation. However, we only collect data on the number of guests who have booked to stay at an accommodation. In addition, this information frequently changes (e.g., due to travel incidents or last-minute changes) and is thus an unreliable indicator of STR guest activity. Airbnb calls on policymakers to remove this data point from Art. 3.11 or, at the very least, to clarify that the data to be provided is that which is held by the platform at the time the reservation is made.