Airbnb has until September to end practices deemed in breach of European law – including applying extra fees to pricing it promotes online.
The European commission has accused the short-let giant of failing its customers and “forgetting its responsibilities”, with commissioner for justice and consumers Věra Jourová giving it six weeks to reform or face sanctions from national regulators across Europe.Ms Jourová said the online platform’s complicated pricing structure can lead to unforeseen extra costs at the end of a holiday – for example on cleaning charges – and its booking system can leave tourists stranded if a rental is cancelled when all other arrangements have already been confirmed.
“More and more consumers book their holiday accommodation online and this sector has brought many new opportunities to holidaymakers,” she said. “But 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, and have fair rules…I expect Airbnb to follow up swiftly with the right solutions.”
The EU received some 6,000 complaints about such accommodation services last year.
It says Airbnb must also clearly distinguish between offers of accommodation from an amateur or professional host, since different consumer protection rules and health and safety requirements apply depending on the host’s status.
An Airbnb spokesman said in The Guardian: “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.”
Ms Jourová has asked Airbnb to change the way pricing is listed on its website to show consumers the total price “inclusive of all the applicable mandatory charges and fees, such as service and cleaning charges.”
When it is not possible to accurately calculate the final price in advance, she said, Airbnb should clearly inform the consumer that additional fees might be charged.
Policies regarding cancellations of short-let accommodation by the owner should also be improved, according to the commissioner.