A court in Amsterdam delivered a ruling in which Airbnb was found to have broken Dutch law by charging a brokerage fee to both clients and property owners. This could have wide-reaching implications for Dutch Airbnb clients in the Netherlands.

The lawsuit was filed by a user who had booked several homes through the website between 2016 and 2018. Cumulatively, the company charged the claimant 470 euros in service costs.

‘Serving two gentlemen’

Because Airbnb also charges landlords a service free (they are obliged to pay a fraction of their rent to the company), the court decided that Airbnb was violating the ban on the ‘serving two gentlemen’ law (which was actually established to prevent the housing market in the Netherlands from appreciating too much, you know, those shady interim rental company fees) that aims to avert a possible conflict of interest.

Although the case was filed by an individual, a judgement in favour of the claimant means that over a million Dutch Airbnb clients can reclaim service costs, potentially costing the company tens of millions, according to NOS.

Not broke(r)

In defence, Airbnb argued that it was not a broker, but an online platform offering a service. The court refuted this argument by clarifying that the law is not restricted solely to brokers.

The court also noted that Airbnb is a kind of mediator, influencing the way in which an agreement or ‘contract’ between the two parties is formed.

This ruling could save you quite a bit

According to the NOS, Airbnb charges a rate of 15% in brokerage fees, which means that if over million people (the number of Dutch users in the Netherlands) rent a home for two nights paying 70 euros per night, the amount of services costs would total 21 million euros – but the actual amount is likely far higher. Calculating on this matter was done from the summer of 2016 and after.

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Decisions, decisions

It is possible for Airbnb to take this case to a higher court, but options are limited since the claimants have demanded a fairly low amount in return, making normal appeal impossible.

What is possible is for the case to be taken to the Dutch Supreme Court – but that would concern procedural matters (such as questions regarding the procedure of the trial – like whether the company had enough opportunity to make its case) instead of substantial matters (which looks at whether the company actually violated the law).

So it looks like the judgement of the sub-district court is pretty final and there might be some very strong claims coming to Airbnb.

Have you rented something through Airbnb in the Netherlands since 2016?

Feature Image: InstagramFOTOGRAFIN/Pixabay

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