by Joseph Archer, The Telegraph, July 16, 2018
Airbnb has been ordered by the EU to put an end to hidden charges, saying the fees are breaking European consumer laws.
The European Commission warned the travel website that its policies, including belatedly applying additional fees to the prices it shows tourists, are failing users. It said it must change how the company works by the end of August.
It follows a series of attacks against US tech companies including Google, Apple and Amazon by the EU in recent years. Google is set to be hit with a record fine later this week for using its Android smartphone system to strengthen its search monopoly.
On Monday Věra Jourová, the EU’s justice commissioner, instructed the US company to be more transparent about prices. Airbnb often advertises a property as being a certain price but then adds a commission and cleaning fees before a customer confirms the booking.
“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,” Ms Jourová said.
The commissioner said Airbnb could expect national regulators across Europe to launch co-ordinated action if they do not make needed changes. She said the prices shown to users fail to truly reflect the fees and charges later passed on to the consumer.
The EU also said Airbnb is failing to say if accommodation listings are being made by amateur hosts or professionals. Under EU law consumer rights differ according to the status of the owner, as do the health and safety requirements.
The commission also wants Airbnb to change a policy that prevents consumers from suing a host if they suffer personal harm or other damages.
An Airbnb spokesman said: “We 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, prior to confirming their decision to book a listing, and we will work together with the authorities to clarify the points raised.”