ECJ finds French real estate law not applicable to Airbnb

Court’s opinion is that company is foremost a digital service provider

Airbnb is a digital service but French authorities cannot apply that country’s real estate law to the US house-sharing company, according to a non-binding opinion from one of the European Court of Justice’s top judges.

Airbnb is a digital service but French authorities cannot apply that country’s real estate law to the US house-sharing company, according to a non-binding opinion from one of the European Court of Justice’s top judges.

 

Airbnb is a digital service but French authorities cannot apply that country’s real estate law to the US house-sharing company, according to a non-binding opinion from one of the European Court of Justice’s top judges.

The opinion, prepared by one of the court’s “advocates general”, decided on two questions. Advocate general Szupunar found that under the bloc’s rules Airbnb is an information society service – EU jargon for a digital service provider.

However, it rejected French claims that the Irish-registered company should be covered by that nation’s real estate law – Hoguet Law – because Paris did not properly notify the European Commission and Irish authorities of its intention to apply French law to the Irish company.

Tuesday’s opinion is silent on if Airbnb would have been subject to the French rules if the authorities had provided proper notification.

Airbnb welcomed the opinion and said it “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,” a spokeswoman said.

Theoretically service companies to operate freely across the EU, though some sectors, such as transport, have to comply with strict national regulations. Airbnb, Uber and other companies that facilitate a service but do not carry it out, can fall between the sets of rules.

In a 2017 landmark decision, the European court ruled that US ride-hailing app Uber was a transport company which operated in the bloc like a traditional taxi firm. That decision shifted its legal status from a digital company and opened it up tougher national regulation in Europe’s 28 member states.

A French court referred the Airbnb case to the EU’s top court which is expected to make a final judgment in the coming months. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019