Airbnb breaches EU consumer rules, must fall into line

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said Airbnb should state whether accommodation is offered by a private individual or a professional, provide details of the price in a clear way and modify its terms of service. (AFP)
Updated 16 July 2018
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Airbnb breaches EU consumer rules, must fall into line

BRUSSELS: The EU told Airbnb on Monday to bring its terms and conditions into line with the bloc’s consumer rules or face action by national consumer agencies, after a review of the short-term rental platform found some violations.
Some of Airbnb’s terms and the way it presents its prices breach the bloc’s unfair commercial practices directive, the unfair contract terms directive and the regulation on jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters, the EU executive said.
San Francisco-based Airbnb and similar rental platforms, which help homeowners rent out their homes or rooms for short periods, have grown in popularity in recent years because of their competitive prices in comparison with hotels.
“But popularity cannot be an excuse for not complying with EU consumer rules. Consumers must easily understand ... how much they are expected to pay for the services and have fair rules for example on cancelation of the accommodation by the owner,” EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said in a statement.
The company has until the end of August to present its proposals for responding to the criticism which will then be reviewed by the Commission and national consumer authorities. It could face fines if it does not comply with EU rules.
The EU executive said Airbnb should state whether accommodation is offered by a private individual or a professional, provide details of the price in a clear way and modify its terms of service to make them fairer to consumers.
Airbnb did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The issue came to light after national consumer agencies in June examined Airbnb’s business practices published in different languages.
Rental platforms have come under fire for driving up property prices and contributing to a housing shortage in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and other big cities.


Meet the Dubai ad men who pay you to sit in traffic

Updated 20 August 2018
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Meet the Dubai ad men who pay you to sit in traffic

  • Blockchain technology challenges traditional outdoor media
  • Adverts connect to driver mobile phone

LONDON: A new startup founded by UAE-based entrepreneurs is in the process of test-running a blockchain-based technology that could help people turn their cars into mobile advertising vehicles.
It could challenge the use of traditional advertising methods such as outdoor billboards, the founders of The Elo Network claim.
The platform — which has been set up by Mohammed Khammas and Mohammed Bafaqih and incorporated in the Cayman Islands — will enable people to be paid for displaying adverts on the side or back of their vehicles while they go about their daily routines of driving to work, the mall or doing the school run.
The adverts will feature low-frequency bluetooth ‘beacons’ that connect to the drivers' mobile phone which will be able to monitor when the driver is in the car and where the car is being driven.
There is a minimum threshold for the number of miles being driven a day, but the main prerequisite is that the driver is in the car. Drivers will still be paid even if stuck in a traffic jam.
Advertising clients will be able to put out requests that drivers head to a particular area — for instance to be close to a new brand launch — with drivers being paid up to 4 or 5 times more than their standard rate if they accept.
While the concept of paying people to use their cars for advertising is not new, it is the use of blockchain technology that will make The Elo Network particularly grounding-breaking in the advertising world, its founders said.
“Billboards are very expensive and static and don’t give you the KPIs and insightful information that brands want these days. You solve that by getting them that data,” Bafaqih said.
The Elo Network collates detailed data by tracking the movements of the drivers and their day-to-day activities. Data points such as a particular area’s population density can been collected.
The information will be encrypted ensuring that the brand will never know the identity of the driver, said Bafaqih.
“It creates data sets that didn’t exist before. You don’t have to worry about privacy but at the same time the brand can know about your patterns. They can know where you go in mornings, where you drive, what normal patterns are created in certain areas and countries,” he said.
This level of detail is increasingly important for brands looking to run targeted campaigns, and it is something that traditional billboards are unable to offer.
The technology will also be used to overcome the payment problems that other similar car advertising schemes have faced.
“Historically what happens, where there is a authority that is issuing payments, it causes a lot of problems. There can be disputes on how much they (the drivers) are owed or how many miles were driven or what campaign someone has done,” he said.
Under the Elo Network program, the blockchain technology allows you to create so-called “Smart Contracts” — which is a software protocol that enforces and verifies the performance of a contract.
“It says driver A is going to be paid — for example — a dollar per mile — so as the person drives he starts receives ‘IOUs’. Those IOUs are convertible at any time,” he said.
With no ‘middle man’ involved, the driver is able to redeem their IOUs and get paid as and when they want.
The network is currently at ‘proof of concept’ stage and is test-running the platform with a number of brands. It is anticipated that the network will be rolled out to the public toward the end of this year and early 2019.