Airbnb wins service fee case: Supreme Court rules double charges are not illegal


The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that holiday rental company Airbnb is not breaking the law by charging a service fee to both landlords and holidaymakers, overturning a lower court ruling and effectively ending hopes of a refund for thousands of its customers.

Judges in Amsterdam ruled in March last year that the holiday rentals company could not charge both renters and holidaymakers for the hire of apartments, prompting tens of thousands of Dutch residents to submit claims for their money back.

However, the Supreme Court has now ruled that Dutch law banning agents from charging both tenants and landlord a fee does not cover the short term rental of holiday accommodation. This is because Dutch law was brought in to stop estate agents charging double fees for long term rental contracts.

Following the Amsterdam verdict, some 40,000 people had registered for a mass claim case organised by consumers association Consumentenbond, while claim organisation had submitted a claim for €300m on behalf of its backers.

Airbnb then started its own case in Rotterdam, sending bailiffs and 2kg of court documents to 20 claimants and the five largest claims firms. According to court papers seen by at the time, Airbnb wanted a court declaration that there is ‘no legal basis for repaying service charges billed by Airbnb to the travellers for using the Airbnb platform.’

The company also urged the Rotterdam judge to seek a binding legal opinion on the matter from the Supreme Court, something that only a judge can request.

The Rotterdam court will now continue the case, but judges in Rotterdam have little option but to follow its ruling.

Other judges who have to decide in similar cases will also take into account the answers of the Supreme Court. The answers are also important for other companies that mediate in the short-term rental of holiday homes,’ the Supreme Court said. 

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