Airbnb sues guests reclaiming service charges

The Netherlands: Airbnb has brought a group of Dutch holidaymakers to court over a proposed refund to service charges.

Judges in Amsterdam ruled this past March that companies could not charge both renters and guests, leading to refund requests from tens of thousands of guests.

The ruling stated that Airbnb charges can only be levied against landlords due to Dutch laws on double charging. This has led to holiday rental companies amassing refund claims worth millions of euros.

Airbnb has taken to the courts in Rotterdam in order to contest the ruling. Bailiffs and court documents have been sent to 20 individual claimants and the five largest claims firms.

Filed court documents show that Airbnb hoped to reach a verdict that there is “No legal basis for repaying service charges” on the platform. It also requests the judge to seek a binding legal opinion from the Dutch supreme court.

Airbnb said in a statement: “We attach great importance to the rights of both our hosts and guests and our aim is to seek clarity for all.  We are waiting for the Dutch high court to provide certainty for everyone across the Netherlands.”

The various parties claiming refunds have reacted differently. Individual claimants reacted with surprise, partially due to the number of documents sent to them.

Most claims firms expected some sort of legal action, as Airbnb had dismissed any prior attempt to make claims. Others also have started to file counterclaims, some of which are worth significant amounts of money.

Stef Smit, director of claims firm ConsumentenClaim, told ‘If they make a judgement, everyone knows where they are. The sooner there is clarity for consumers about whether they will get their money back or not, the better. For us this is just business as usual – we are specialised in mass claims.’

Airbnb has stressed that it will not force individual claimants to go to court. The Rotterdam district court has paused the latest case and is waiting on a unified question between all parties before petitioning the Supreme Court.