Consumer regulators with the European Union have asked Airbnb to alter how it displays prices and the wording of certain items in its terms of service, which the commission says are not transparent enough and do not provide adequate information for consumers. Airbnb has until the end of August to comply, the EU says.
“More and more consumers book their holiday accommodation online and this sector has brought many new opportunities to holidaymakers. But popularity cannot be an excuse for not complying with EU consumer rules,” wrote EU commissioner for consumers Vera Jourova in a statement. “Consumers must easily understand what for and how much they are expected to pay for the services and have fair rules [for example] on cancellation of the accommodation by the owner. I expect Airbnb to follow up swiftly with the right solutions.”
Some of the issues at hand involve Airbnb’s presentation of holiday bookings and whether it’s clear to overseas bookers who are traveling to Europe on vacation if a host is a casual Airbnb user offering private accommodations or a professional host. (The EU has different rules for private versus professional business offerings.) Another issue, according to the EU, is how Airbnb breaks down the price a consumer sees prior to booking and the final price, which may differ depending on fees, taxes, and other costs.
“The commission and the consumer authorities will meet, if needed, with Airbnb in September to solve any outstanding concern. If the company’s proposals are not considered satisfactory, consumer authorities could decide to resort to enforcement measures,” reads the EU’s announcement.
Separately, the EU is pushing Airbnb to change its terms of service so that certain protections are provided, like a consumer’s right to sue a host in the event of harm or other damages. The commission also wants Airbnb to better communicate its refund policy and to clarify and amend certain portions of its cancellation and contract termination policy to better protect consumers.
“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,” reads a statement provided to The Verge by an Airbnb spokesperson.