Airbnb, the short-term, home-sharing site, has removed a payment system in France that was deemed controversial.
According to news from Reuters, the government in France wanted tax authorities to investigate Airbnb’s payment system over suspicions that it was enabling the avoidance of taxes after it learned the company was allowing hosts to use a prepaid Payoneer card. The Payoneer card lets homeowners receive payments for rentals without any money going through bank accounts, which raised concerns among lawmakers.
Airbnb reportedly met with government officials, including Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire. The home-sharing company has been facing a regulatory crackdown similar to that of ride-hailing company Uber, prompted in part by hotel industry lobbying. Hotel operators in France contend Airbnb is creating unfair competition.
In a statement to Reuters, Airbnb claimed the payment tools, including the Payoneer card, were “legal and had all the necessary authorizations to operate in France.” The company told the newswire that less than 1 percent of hosts in the country of France use the system. Still, it decided to remove the card, following “concerns [that it was] tied to possible debit card abuse.” The French Ministry for the Economy and Finance said the move on the part of Airbnb is a “responsible decision … to avoid all opportunity for open fraud through the use of this payment tool.”
Late last month, Airbnb launched the ability to split payments with other travelers. TechCrunch reported at the time that the new service was made possible through Airbnb’s acquisition of social payments startup Tilt. Before the launch of payment splitting, one traveler had to front the cost of the trip and hope that their friends/colleagues/family paid them back in a timely fashion.
A recent poll from Airbnb found that 43 percent of users have lost $1,000 or more in repayments from group trips; 18 percent say they’ve lost $10,000 or more from not getting repaid after group trips and 29 percent have fought with a friend over group trip repayment.