The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will decide whether to classify Airbnb as an online booking service or real estate agent this month, amid a battle against the company from a tourism group, according to Reuters. The backlash against the company also comes from city officials and hotels.
The decision has the potential for large consequences for the company, especially in Paris, where the Olympics will be held in 2024. The International Olympic Committee has already agreed to promote the use of Airbnb to help people find lodging during the games.
The issue highlights how new industries can upend traditional norms, and not be subject to the same regulations that legacy industries, like hotels, must face. The company has been accused of affecting housing shortages, forcing out lower income residents and not playing by the same rules by which others must abide.
French tourism association AhTop filed a complaint, and a French prosecutor charged Airbnb with breaking the country’s Hoguet Law, meant to have authority over property owners and agents. That was when the judge asked for clarification from the CJEU, which is expected to rule on Dec. 19.
In April, the CJEU said in a non-binding opinion that Airbnb should be treated as a digital service provider, and that it should be free to operate in the region. This does not mean, however, that a ruling in Airbnb’s favor is guaranteed. In 2017, the court ruled against Uber, saying the company should be classified as a transportation entity, instead of what Uber wanted: to be a digital app simply acting as a go-between for customers and rides.
Airbnb has been in the crosshairs of AhTop before. It previously stated that the 50-year real estate legislation doesn’t apply to Airbnb because it’s an internet platform. Furthermore, Airbnb said it was cooperating with governments to make sure it doesn’t harm housing.