BRUSSELS – Airbnb scored a big win in its long-standing fight with French hoteliers as the European Union's highest court rejected Thursday an argument that Airbnb should be subject to the strict rules that govern French real estate agents.
The case was submitted by a French court after a major association of hotels, including leading chains like Best Western, filed a complaint arguing that the Ireland-registered company should be submitted to the same obligations as traditional real estate providers. The hotel industry in France, like those in many countries across the world, accuses the online rental platform of unfair competition.
Hotel owners wanted Airbnb to follow real estate agent accounting, insurance and other financial rules. Airbnb denied acting as a real estate agent.
“We welcome this judgment and want to move forward and continue working with cities on clear rules that put local families and communities at the heart of sustainable 21st century travel," Airbnb said in a statement. “We want to be good partners to everyone and already we have worked with more than 500 governments to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay tax."
In its ruling, the Court of Justice said that under a European directive on electronic commerce Airbnb should be classified as an "information society service" connecting potential guests with hosts. The court said that “France cannot require Airbnb to hold an estate agent’s professional licence."
Paris city officials have been at odds with the platform in recent years, holding it responsible for the rise of rents in the French capital. Earlier this year, the city took legal action against Airbnb and wanted to fine the company 12.5 million euros ($14 million) for allowing owners to rent their properties without having them properly registered.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has planned to hold a referendum that could reduce the platform’s presence in some of the most touristic districts of the city if she wins re-election next year.
In 2012, Airbnb had 4,000 Paris-area listings. That surged to more than 40,000 by 2015, when Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky was welcomed at city hall. Last year, Paris city hall said there were about 60,000 Airbnb listings in Paris.