CJEU advocate general: Airbnb is an information society service

1 May 2019

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a legal opinion to the CJEU, affirming that Airbnb is an information society service. The legal opinion is not binding, but the court takes the advice of its advocate general in the majority of the cases. The judgment is expected later in the year. The case was referred by a court in Paris, where a French tourism association claimed that Airbnb should be submitted to the same accounting, insurance, and financial obligations as providers of real estate. The advocate general holds that Airbnb is not a real estate broker, therefore, should not have its activities ruled by French real estate laws. He believes that Airbnb provides a service to connect potential guests with hosts offering short-term accommodation ‘in a situation in which the provider of that service does not exercise control over the essential procedures for the provisions of those services’. Under the terms of the E-Commerce Directive, this practice concerns information society services. The directive allows businesses to provide information services across EU member states without restriction. This case will have significant consequences on how EU member states regulate Airbnb activities. The platform has been fighting claims from European cities, including Paris, Brussels, and Madrid, that it should be more heavily regulated. If its activities are understood as information society services by the CJEU, states in the EU will be more limited on how they can regulate the platform. In 2017, the CJEU had ruled that Uber was not only an information society service but a transportation service provider. This ruling allowed EU member states to impose restrictions on Uber’s activities.

Explore the issues

Historically, telecommunications, broadcasting, and other related areas were separate industry segments; they used different technologies and were governed by different regulations.

Jurisdiction is the authority of the court and state organs to decide on legal cases. The relationship between jurisdiction and the Internet has been ambiguous, since jurisdiction rests predominantly on the geographical division of the globe into national territories. Each state has the sovereign right to exercise jurisdiction over its territory.

Intermediaries play a vital role in ensuring Internet functionality. In several Internet governance areas, such as copyright infringement and spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are considered key online intermediaries. In other areas, such as defamation and the so-called right to be forgotten, the responsibility extends to hosts of online content and search engines.

 

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