Airbnb has until the end of August to address complaints the company’s pricing and booking system can be misleading, the European Union said today.
The American room booking website, which launched 10 years ago, said it was willing to work with the EU Commission to address any problems it might have.
Airbnb has become popular with travellers in recent times as an alternative to hotel stays across the world. It allows users to book rooms or entire apartments and easily track down places to stay.
Airbnb: The American firm has been to stop hidden charges by the EU Commission
But a customer gripe has long been that costs seen when comparing rooms or apartments can be different to the final price, as extra fees can be added at the point of booking.
Airbnb has been told to stop hidden charges amid concerns it is breaking European consumer laws.
The EC said that some of Airbnb’s policies, including belatedly adding fees to the prices its shows travellers including for items such as cleaning, is failing them.
Vera Jourova, EU consumer commissioner, said that many travellers could be stumped now by the complicated pricing structure, which can add extra costs at the end of a holiday.
And the booking system can also leave a tourist stranded if the rental is canceled when all other arrangements have been already made.
She said: ‘Consumers must easily understand what for and how much they are expected to pay for the services.’
She wants Airbnb to change its pricing on its web site to show travellers the total price ‘inclusive of all the applicable mandatory charges and fees, such as service and cleaning charges.’
When it is not possible to accurately calculate the final price in advance, Airbnb should clearly inform the consumer that additional fees might apply, she said.
Jourova added there should be fair rules, for example on the cancellation of the accommodation by the owner.
She said: ‘I expect Airbnb to follow up swiftly with the right solutions.’
Airbnb said: ‘We take this issue seriously and are committed to being as transparent as possible.’
‘Guests are made aware of all fees, including service charges and taxes, prior to confirming their decision to book a listing.
‘We will work together with the authorities to clarify the points raised.’
The European Commission is the executive arm of the 28-nation EU. It will meet with Airbnb in September if needed to tackle any remaining concerns.
The move follows a series of investigations by the EU in recent years of US tech giants, such as Amazon, Apple and Google.
The latter is set for a record fine next week for using its Android smartphone network to strengthen its search engine monopoly.
Different: Users can book private rooms or whole apartments across the globe to ‘live like a local’. Pictured, stock image of Paris apartments
The EU Commission said Airbnb must also clearly distinguish between offers from a private or professional host, since different consumer protection rules apply.
Jourova wants Airbnb to come up with ‘detailed solutions’ to bring their practices in line with EU legislation and will discuss them with the company if they are unsatisfactory.
San Francisco-based Airbnb has grown into a multi-billion dollar firm. We revealed last month how holidaymakers are being visited by police and even thrown out of their Airbnb apartments after unwittingly falling foul of local laws.
Airbnb, the home-sharing website, is allowing properties to be listed in places such as New York, Singapore, Japan and parts of Spain, where many short-term holiday lettings have been restricted or banned.
We reported on how tourists are arriving at properties to find ‘No Airbnb’ signs posted inside the buildings, security guards who want to interrogate them and a hostile reception from other residents.