As a means to tackle the negative side effects of the online short term rentals market, governments should be allowed better access to data from platforms such as Airbnb as part of the EU’s Digital Services Act, the Netherland’s Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren has said.
Her statement came as the Dutch released a new position paper on the upcoming Digital Services Act, noting that the online short term rentals marketplace should be subject to new rules because of the market’s ‘negative’ impact on housing prices and social cohesion.
The EU’s Digital Services Act, introducing broad new regulation in the platform economy, will cover areas of the field including content moderation, data sharing, self-preferencing activities online, and the operation of algorithms. It is due to be presented by the Commission on December 2.
“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,” Ollongren said on Monday (9 November).
Data sharing with governments
Specifically, the Dutch want the new rules in the short term rentals market to force platforms such as Airbnb to share their data with governments.
“Governments need better access to data from platforms in order to be able to effectively enforce (local) laws and regulations – in the most far-reaching case in the form of a data-sharing obligation,” the non-paper published on Monday (9 November) states.
“Where necessary, new safeguards need to be introduced to guarantee access to data for governments,” the Dutch add, also noting specifically that an example of the type of data shared with governments could include the number of nights a provider has rented out an apartment.
In other areas of platform regulation in this field, the Dutch would like to see the Digital Services Act counter illegal activities in the short term rentals market, such as the placement of ‘illegal’ advertisements. In over to increase legislative oversight in this field, ‘access to information’ for governments on the types of advertisements being offered needs to be improved.
Broadly, the Dutch refer to the example of AirBnb’s rise in Amsterdam and how this has had wider detrimental implications for the public interest.
“The number of residential spaces that were rented out to tourists (on Airbnb) in Amsterdam at least once a year was more than 21.000 in 2018, compared to more than 19.000 in 2017.”
“It has been found that this large-scale short-term holiday rental of residential spaces has negative effects on, inter alia, the housing market, liveability, social cohesion, safety, and the level playing field for other providers of such accommodation.”
In response, Patrick Robinson, Director of Public Policy for Europe at AirBnB noted how the Dutch had already put forward their own legislation for accessing the platform’s data.
“The Dutch government has already introduced national legislation that would give it access to this data, which Airbnb backs wholeheartedly,” he said.
“We also support the EU Commission’s work to update its rules.”
The Dutch point on greater data sharing draws a parallel with recent Commission efforts to oblige platform giants to loosen their grip over user data, albeit by sharing it with rivals, not necessarily with governments.
According to a draft list of blacklisted practices that was leaked earlier this year, platform giants would be prohibited from using the data they collect online unless they make this data available for use by smaller platforms.
“Gatekeepers shall not use data generated and collected on the platform or on any of the gatekeepers’ other services for the purpose of its own commercial activities directed at consumers of the relevant platform, unless they are making this data accessible to business users (seeking to become) active in the same commercial activities,” the document states, referring to this specific policy as a ‘prohibition of exclusive use of data.’
Moreover, on the subject of countering illegal activities online, the EU’s Vice-President for Digital Affairs, Margrethe Vestager has said that a crackdown on the sale of counterfeit and illegal goods and services will feature in the Digital Services Act.
As a means to counter such illicit trade, Vestager has suggested that the identity of traders may need to be better verified online.
Platforms “need to be better at identifying those who are selling on their marketplaces,” Vestager said in July. “It is ridiculous that a trader that has been caught selling illegal products can disappear into thin air and sign up under a different name just a few minutes later,” she added.
“Platforms need to act much more rigorously against illegal products and services offered on their platforms,” she insisted.