Tech Transformers

Airbnb goes on the charm offensive in Europe amid tussles with regulators


Airbnb has asked for cooperation from European regulators, following a wide range of issues for the home sharing start-up which includes taxes and renting laws in the region.

The latest issue for Airbnb came when authorities in the German capital of Berlin passed a law that banned people from putting entire houses up for rent on home sharing sites. Instead, they could only rent a room in the house.

Regulators fear that home sharing sites could cause people to buy second homes, causing a housing shortage and driving up rents.

Speaking at the Start-up Fest conference in Amsterdam on Tuesday, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk said he expects this issue to be resolved over time.

A computer screen in the Airbnb offices in Paris.
Martin Bureau | AFP | Getty Images

"Berlin is an interesting case because basically this policy ... was established over two years ago," Blecharczyk said. The law was introduced in 2014 but came into effect earlier this year and Becharczyk said it has been a "ticking issue" but would be "addressed over time."

The Airbnb co-founder used his keynote to go on a charm offensive, outlining all the positive aspects about Airbnb in Europe. Blecharczyk said on any given night, there are a million guests staying in someone else's home globally and "half of that" was in Europe. He added that in 2015, hosts in Europe collectively made nearly $3 billion.

Berlin is not the only city where Airbnb has had problems. The start-up clashed with French authorities over taxes last year. Hotels were unhappy that Airbnb hosts were not charging "city taxes". Eventually, Airbnb agreed to charge these taxes.

The company has also struck a partnership with Amsterdam City Council to collect taxes on its behalf. The scheme, which came into force at the end of 2014, so far has seen 5.5 million euros ($6.1 million) worth of taxes collected from hosts.

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Blecharczyk used this as an example of how regulators should work with Airbnb.

"With this scale come some questions, and they often come from government. And that's totally to be expected and something we have really tried to embrace. We think government plays a very important role in the success of home sharing," Blecharczyk said.

He added that Airbnb is in conversation with over 100 cities and 30 of them so far have passed new policies around home sharing. So-called "sharing economy" start-ups have often found themselves under scrutiny from regulators as they scale. Uber for example, has had many issues with governments in Europe.

Blecharczyk called on more regulators to resolve their issues with the company.

"For those not engaged with us, we have put out a pledge ... indicating our willingness to work with cities to address issues that are important to them," the Airbnb co-founder said.