Online booking firm Airbnb is facing a bill of up to €200 million after a court ruled it was not entitled to claim booking fees from its Dutch customers.
The district court in Amsterdam said the platform was in breach of a Dutch law which forbids middlemen from taking fees from both parties in a transaction.
Airbnb was ordered to repay €470 in fees to a customer who brought the case, but the ruling applies to all bookings made by tourists based in the Netherlands, according to lawyer Nicolaas Huppes.
Huppes, who brought the case, told Het Parool that Airbnb now faced claims from anyone who had paid the 15% accommodation fee since 2015. The platform will only be allowed to retain the 3.6% fee it takes from owners.
‘This isn’t a small thing. It’s a 16-page judgment. Three judges have considered this case. I’ll be interested to see how they react,’ said Huppes.
The Dutch supreme court ruled in October 2015 that the ruling barring intermediaries from representing both sides applied to all real estate, employment mediation and financial products, and gave Airbnb as an example.
Huppes said he would now look to pursue individual or collective claims against Airbnb for a commission of 30%. ‘We have already received several hundred notifications averaging €200. I don’t think Airbnb will be giving back the money voluntarily.’
Airbnb told the Parool it would appeal against the ruling, arguing that similar claims had been dismissed by judges in Rotterdam and Utrecht.
‘This decision is against European law,’ said a spokesman. ‘The European Court of Justice recently decided that Airbnb is an online platform and not an agent. The application of Dutch law is in breach of that decision.’