AirBnB found in breach of EU law

Hi Folks; there’s a report in today’s UK “Guardian” newspaper that AirBnB has been accused by the European Commission of “failing its customers and forgetting its responsibilities”. The Commissioner for Justice and Consumers said that the prices displayed on the AirBnB website failed to reflect the fees and charges later passed on to consumers, including cleaning fees. Also the site didn’t clearly identify if the accommodation was being provided by amateur or professional hosts. This latter issue is important because the level of consumer rights differ according to the status of the host, as do health and safety requirements. The Commissioner also said that Airbnb’s terms and conditions were unclear, and that AirBnB had until the end of August to show it was reforming its ways - i.e. to ditch the practice of applying additional fees to the prices it promotes online - or it could it expect national regulators across Europe to launch coordinated action.
We’ll wait and see what happens.


I must say I have thought about safety and insurance concerns with amateur hosts. All we need is for someone to die due to faulty wiring or carbon monoxide. I wonder if Brexit will exempt the UK? In any case the UK allows amateur hosts not to register as a B&B unless they go above 3 rooms.

What’s the legal difference between an amateur and professional host?

In France there are several criteria …
Professionals are registered as a business, have a identifying number, can buy at wholesale prices and can claim a variety of expenses for tax deductions
Amateurs can not rent out for more than 120 days / year and have another primary source of income

There are a lot of differences, but the most important one is consumer protection.

When you book with an amateur you are virtually unprotected, except for the AirBnB protection programs, where AirBnB is the Judge, Jury and Executioner.

When booking with a professional a guest is protected by EU consumer laws, so a guest can claim with a host direct and have much better protection than from AirBnB.

What happens is pretty obvious. AirBnB already announced it several months ago.
They will remove the service fees from the guests and move it to the host.

And my guess is that they will probably ad a “professional host” badge.

Although the cleaning fee thing is a bit strange because I know many sites that do not have this included in the rates, it is very hard to implement this. They could add a small box to the rates saying “+€€€ one time cleaning fee”.

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We all have to be ready for this. We hosts will be paying everything so they can compete with the Booking dots of the world.

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Thanks for the heads up, @southendbootboy. I’ve just had a look at the article (I must say that the Grauniad generally seems to take a critical stance to Airbnb).

What I don’t understand is the Commissioner’s complaint about “belatedly” applied additional fees. Yes, the headline prices are a joke but as soon as you actually put in any dates you see both the booking fee and any cleaning fee, don’t you? I’m not sure what the substance of the complaint is …


I wondered about the “belatedly” bit too. It was reported in The I (cheapskate Independent…) word for word, so not a media interpretation I think. I think they are meaning that the fees are not seen in the headline rate at once, not post hocter proc, so to speak.

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It is the plus, plus, plus at the end that pings people off.

All the criticisms sounds completely accurate. Would be good to see some criticisms of hosts left high n dry too when guests abuse the system but I agree with the Commissioners findings.


So, can you explain to me how the costs are inaccurate when all you need to do is pick a set of dates and the accurate price is immediately quoted? And how Airbnb is “failing its customers” when the vast majority of travellers’ interactions with Airbnb seem to turn out well (as evidenced by people using the system more than once)?

The EU notoriously favours large, established business conglomerates (in this instance large hotel chains) over small businesses (and though I accept that Airbnb is now big business, most of its practitioners - us - ar not).


I think story is indicative of the sea change against Airbnb. It was once a chummy little peer to peer house lending app, but it has become so much more, simply by being so successful. Now that it’s this big, any safety problems become magnified, many will know of some kind of incident locally.
3 miles from me, we had the balcony collapse, 9 people were dancing on what was basically a big window sill, they plunged 3 storeys into the concrete basement. Had those 9 people booked a hotel, or stayed at a holiday camp, previous risk assessments would have made pretty sure their stay was a safe one. Had that house carried out a risk assessment, maybe the front window would have been locked.
I don’t have a fire alarm, my 3 level house doesn’t qualify for a fire escape, I don’t even have a comprehensive first aid box or accident book, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
I’ve got a feeling these are the glory days, where a spare room can increase a homes income significantly just for doing a bit extra laundry!


Whilst I think an Accident/Incident Book would be OTT - we’re not Residential Care Homes, as much as it may often feel like it - I do have smoke alarms, a CO2 detector (mandatory with a log burner) and a first aid kit.

The first aid kit comes in handy when I cut my shins on the dishwasher drawer, or when the pub Landlord falls over pissed. Regularly.

We set off the smoke alarms when grilling. Regularly. No batteries to remove as wired to the mains.

The CO2 detector came with a handy label of emergency numbers for utilities for the back of a cupboard door. Very handy indeed.

I do in fact have an Accident/Incident Book; this forum!

More seriously, I have considered fire safety, and exits, in our aged house: its various extensions over the two more recent centuries have made for a complex layout. Two bedrooms would have to be exited via windows onto a flat roof and out to the back garden if a fire took hold on the ground floor. I consulted a fire fighter friend for advice, and now give out the advice when doing the Grand Tour on arrival.


yes, well done Joan! The cleverer of us are no doubt safety aware, not wanting to be responsible for someones death, but do you see the point that many hosts won’t give as much of a toss? This is why we’re getting European Commissions suggesting that the gap between consumer rights as a hotel guest vs. Airbnb guest is tightened? :slight_smile:

I will add that the gap tightening will affect us, and not hotels!

Safety is just one of the things.
There are also differences in privacy rules, booking guarantees, obligations about informing guests, hygiene policies, food allergy regulations etc etc.

This is not the only reason.
Also the way AirBnB is reporting and registering its payments is not according to any booking standards, and actually promoting tax avoidance.

For the same reason they stopped the co-host payment, because what AirBnB did was facilitating in tax avoidance, by reducing the income for the host upfront.

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Not sure what you mean though. I report and pay tax on my payout amount.

I think the thing that results in tax avoidance is the fact that now they don’t send 1099s to the IRS unless you have over 250 reservations and over 20k in income. You may not have that same policy in the U.K.

I really believe that they need to compete with booking and offer free booking to their guests. The service fees will be absorbed by us.

And that is wrong.
You are supposed to pay income tax on the amount the guest pays excluding fees, and add the AirBnB fees as a cost.
But since AirBnB does not clearly communicate this, they hide it somewhere so almost every host only pays taxes on your payout amount.

The same goes for the co hosting thing. Hosts only paid taxes on their payout, where they are supposed to pay taxes on the total amount, and enter the co-host as a cost.

I do the same, if my nightly rate is €100 I am supposed to pay €11,50 VAT, but since AirBnB only pays me €97, I only pay €11,15. These seem tiny amounts, but they add up to huge amounts of unpaid taxes.