We all know the concept of couch surfing, home swapping, and apartment sharing services that create an easy way to find accommodation for those who like to travel and a new way of getting to know other cultures. Some of the original initiatives grew into a more professional service offered by home sharing platforms in exchange for a commission.
For consumers, the collaborative economy can provide benefits through new services, extended supply, and lower prices. Such new business models driven by innovation also have a significant potential to contribute to competitiveness and growth. Therefore, I agree with the Commission that innovation in this sector should be encouraged.
Challenges and how to overcome them
However, there are also certain pressing issues in this case… Bigger cities are already facing challenges because of increased investment in unrented apartments and houses. Now, the growth of short-term holiday rentals create additional pressure on housing costs and availability of affordable housing.
Hence, it is necessary to ensure that short-term rental services are transparent about their offerings, while respecting privacy and data protection. This would allow cities to better track and understand developments on the market. Therefore, I welcome the agreement reached on March 5 between the Commission and Airbnb, Booking, Expedia Group, and Tripadvisor on data sharing on tourism accommodation. In line with the agreement, Eurostat—the EU statistical office—will be able to publish data on short-stay accommodations offered via these platforms across the Union.
As it is the case with all kinds of technology, such services can be abused as well. Recent revelations by WIRED UK demonstrated how organized networks manage scam accounts on some of the websites. Followed by some action by Airbnb.
Removal of such scam accounts should be fast and efficient, which could be encouraged by uniform requirements to report and to speedily remove such content. In all cases, such removal should be accompanies by proper investigation and protection of the victims.
I will work on the Digital Services Act, reviewing current rules applicable to digital platforms and help to address some of these issues.