Airbnb faces crucial ruling in top EU court

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A top European court is set to decide Thursday whether the house-sharing platform Airbnb is a technology or real-estate company, in a landmark ruling that will have knock-on effects for how digital firms are regulated across the bloc.

The ruling will crown a long-running battle between Airbnb and traditional hotel companies across Europe, which argue that the platform offers similar services to them without being subjected to the same regulations.

It follows a similar case involving ride-hailing app Uber, which the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) defined in 2017 as a transport company rather than a technology firm, subjecting Uber to more stringent oversight across the bloc.

The court is set to decide whether the platform is an “information society service” or a real-estate firm, as the complainant, the French hotel lobby AhTop, argues.

If the Luxembourg-based court finds in AhTop’s favor, Airbnb is likely to face a range of new constraints in key capitals like Amsterdam, Paris and London, which have been pushing for tougher regulation, arguing that the platform distorts housing markets, unfairly competes with hotels and contributes to excessive tourism.

But if the court rules for Airbnb — as a favorable opinion from the court’s advocate general suggests it might do — the San Francisco-based company will have scored a major legal victory that will strengthen its hand in ongoing battles against those municipalities.

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