Airbnb under scrutiny in Europe ahead of digital services act

In this photo illustration, a man looks at the website of Airbnb on April 20, 2020 in Katwijk, Netherlands.Yuriko Nakao | Getty Images News | Getty ImagesLONDON — Airbnb could be among the targeted platforms when the European Union presents a raft of tougher regulations targeting tech companies next month.The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is expected to overhaul the management of content on platforms like Google and Facebook with its Digital Services Act — the first regulation of its kind since 2000.Its overall aim is to ensure fair competition in the European market, but the rules are expected to require dramatic changes to the business models and practices of Big Tech.One of the big uncertainties is which platforms will have to abide by the new rules. The Dutch government wants Airbnb to be among them.”To tackle the side effects of ‘short-term holiday rentals’ on European cities and enforce legislation, we need better access to data from platforms such as Airbnb,” Kajsa Ollongren, deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, said on Monday.In a document seen by CNBC, the Dutch government argued that short-term holiday rentals “can have negative effects on public interests, such as the housing market, liveability, social cohesion, safety and the level playing field for other providers of such accommodation.”As such, the Netherlands believes having access to Airbnb data would enable it to better respond to these challenges.Airbnb was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC on Monday.Airbnb has experienced solid growth across the European Union. Data from Statista showed that the share of people in the Netherlands using the rental website grew from 1.6% in 2014 to 7.2% in 2018.European competition chief Margrethe Vestager explained last month how far-reaching the Digital Services Act will be. She said that platforms will “have to tell us how they decide what information and products to recommend to us, and which ones to hide,” for example.She also said “they’ll have to tell us who’s paying for the ads that we see, and why we’ve been targeted by a certain ad.”This would be massive for tech firms, which have refused to disclose their algorithms for years.European officials are currently deciding whether the upcoming rules should have a more narrow approach and focus on a small number of tech giants, or whether to include as many as 20 companies, the FT reported on Sunday.

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