ECJ adviser says Airbnb is a digital services provider

France: Airbnb has received a boost after it emerged an adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said the company should be seen as a digital service provider.

Maciej Szpunar, an advocates general for the ECJ, said he regarded Airbnb to be what Brussels would describe as an information society service, a status that comes with the right to operate freely across the EU.

Such a claim could be a step towards Airbnb avoiding being subject to the strict regulations that it has been faced with since its launch in 2008. Cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona have been at the forefront of a debate arguing that the company’s home-sharing service has led to disturbances and affordable housing shortages in neighbourhoods.

Szpunar furthermore rejected the claims by one French tourism association that the firm should face the same accounting, insurance and financial obligations as regular real estate providers.

Airbnb countered the claims by the association by saying that it is a commercial provider for people seeking accommodation and it does not qualify as a real estate brokerage.

The ECJ advocates general said that the French government had not notified the European Commission and the authorities in Ireland, where Airbnb has headquarters, of its intention to place the obligations on the company.

France represents Airbnb’s largest market after the United States, while Paris is its biggest single city market. The French capital has an estimated 65,000 listings.

A spokesman for the company told The Guardian newspaper: “We welcome the opinion of the advocate general, which provides a clear overview of what rules apply to collaborative economy platforms like Airbnb and how these rules help create opportunities for consumers.

“We also want to be good partners and already we have worked with more than 500 governments around the world on measures to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay their fair share of tax.

“As we move forward, we want to continue working with everyone to put locals at the heart of sustainable 21st-century travel,” they concluded.