EU’s ‘sharing economy’ stifled by petty rules on coat hangers to light bulbs

A 3D printed people's models are seen in front of a displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Marilyn Haigh | BRUSSELS

BRUSSELS Europe’s bid to champion the “sharing economy” is being undermined in the short-term rental sector by capitals imposing petty rules such as dictating the number of coat hangers home-owners must provide, a complaint filed to the European Commission says.

In its complaint, the European Holiday Homeowners Association singled out Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and Paris as having local regulations that restricted the activities of online platforms such as Airbnb and TripAdvisor and violated the EU’s e-commerce directive.

The Commission set out guidelines in June aimed at creating a true single market for a rapidly growing sector of the economy, which includes platforms from ride-hailing app Uber [UBER.UL] to accommodation service Airbnb.

But the European Holiday Homeowners Association, which represents members of the short-term rental industry and which lodged a complaint with the Commission earlier this month, said restrictive local rules were hurting the “sharing economy”.

In the Belgian capital, those wanting to rent out accommodation must meet the same standards as a hotel.

This meant in practice that they must provide at least two hangers per guest, an electric bath sink light of a specific brightness and a cup or glass per guest.

Failure to do so could result in fines ranging from 250 euros to 25,000 euros ($281-$28,125).

Carlos Villaro Lassen, head of the home-owners association, said the complaint was designed to prevent what were effective bans on secondary home rentals in Paris and Berlin and to provide common rules on technical and quality guidelines.

The Commission’s guidelines, which are not legally binding, say full bans on private companies such as Airbnb or Uber should only be used as a last resort.

(Reporting by Marilyn Haigh; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Richard Balmforth)