EC prepares to regulate on sharing economy players

The European Commission is poised to confirm ‘sharing economy’ sites such as accommodation provider Airbnb must abide by existing safety regulations and consumer protection laws in Europe.

Krisztina Boros, EC policy officer for tourism, said: “The collaborative economy business model so far has been regarded as so different that people think existing legislation is not applicable, but it is.”

The EC is due to publish guidance on regulating sites such as Airbnb and taxi app Uber tomorrow (Thurs) amid increasing calls for enforcement but amid confusion over whether the existing rules apply.

Boros confirmed: “There are strict rules on transparency and on how prices should be displayed [and these] existing regulations apply.”

The EC guidance will address issues including “the liability of platforms, to what extent a platform is regarded as an intermediary and to what extent a provider of services, and when someone is regarded as self-employed [or an employee]”.

It should also include definitions of the ‘collaborative’, ‘sharing’ or ‘peer to peer’ economy, requirements on licensing, tax, and consumer information and the “rights of service recipients”.

Boros told a UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) seminar last week: “There is regulatory uncertainty and we need to create a level playing field. The [current] uncertainty hampers all actors, existing and collaborative.”

Christian de Barrin, chief executive of the European association of hotels, restaurants and cafes (HOTREC), said: “At the moment, there are two economies – one regulated and one not regulated. This needs to be addressed as a question of fair competition. Platforms should not display offers that are illegal. When it comes to consumer protection, the same rules should apply as to traditional businesses.”

Airbnb public policy manager Sofia Gkiousou told the same seminar: “There are hotels on Airbnb.”

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