Earlier this month, Congressman Ed Case introduced a bill that would make finding accommodation on your next getaway more expensive—regardless of where you choose to stay.
Why? It turns out hotels don’t like your cheap stays with Airbnb and HomeAway, and they’re lining up behind this bill to run those platforms off the market.
The Hawaii Democrat calls it the “PLAN Act,” short for Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods. The bill would amend a crucial internet provision called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—the law that enables online services to host large amounts of user-created content without bearing liability for that content.
“This bill creates a moral hazard by letting big hotel chains harass short term rental competitors, just so the big hotels can further increase their room rates,” says Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice, a trade association of e-commerce businesses. “Weakening Section 230 will damage Americans’ ability to communicate online. The bill empowers Marriott to stop us from lawfully earning rental income on our own homes.”
Steve DelBianco, president of e-commerce trade group NetChoice, which promotes free speech on the internet, called Section 230 “the greatest internet law that no one’s ever heard of.”
He said issues with short-term rentals should be addressed at the local level.
“Congress should not get involved with how the city of Austin, Texas, enforces its lodging and local zoning laws against property owners,” DelBianco said. “But Congress is being pulled into this competitive conflict because Section 230 is a federal law and bars local governments from imposing liability on a platform for commerce and communication that came from users.”
Carl Szabo, NetChoice’s general counsel, argued that Case’s bill would encourage platforms to be less responsive to take down content of bad actors, which is a component of Section 230 and could lead to platforms not doing any moderation at all, similar to how 8chan operates.
“This bill would create disincentives for short term rental platforms to engage in active, aggressive, monitoring of homeowners,” he said.
Like others in the short-term rental lobby, DelBianco said NetChoice plans to educate lawmakers “on the general hazards of punching holes in Section 230.”
Today, NetChoice criticized a new bill introduced by Rep. Case (D-HI) that would upend the American short-term rental market by removing Section 230 protections for platforms where owners list their properties.
“This bill creates a moral hazard by letting big hotel chains harass short term rental competitors, just so the big hotels can further increase their room rates,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. [see direct quotes from hotel chain executives below]
“Weakening Section 230 will damage Americans’ ability to communicate online. The bill empowers Marriott to stop us from lawfully earning rental income on our own homes.”
“It’s laughable to hold the Washington Post liable for bad acts associated with rentals that appear in classified ads — but that is what this bill does. This bill is so broad it allows cities to ban home rental ads on craigslist and on any website showing classified ads.”
Hotel chain executives have said on record that laws curtailing STRs would allow them to raise prices:
- LaSalle Hotel Properties’ CEO Mark Barnello told his investors that a law curtailing short-term rental services would allow hotels to boost their prices by eliminating competition. Passage of a law liming short-term rental services “should be a big boost in the arm for the business, certainly in terms of the pricing.”
- On an earnings call last year, Jon Bortz, Chief Executive of Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, which owns Embassy Suites, Doubletree and other hotels, said that Airbnb has put a dent on the company’s “ability to price at what maybe the customer would describe as sort of gouging rates.”
“The beneficiaries of this bill are big hotel chains who want to raise room rates without worrying that guests would consider short-term rentals as an alternative,” said NetChoice President Steve DelBianco. (His trade group members include all the major short-term rental platforms, from Airbnb to Expedia to Travelocity).
Today, NetChoice criticized efforts by Rep. Case (D-HI) to pass legislation that would upend the American short-term rental market by removing Section 230 protections.
“Nobody would say that a newspaper is liable for problems that occur with a rental that appeared in the paper’s classified ads, but that is just what Case’s bill would do to short-term rental platforms. This approach creates a moral hazard by shifting legal responsibility from the homeowner to the platform that lists it for rental.” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice.
“Without Section 230 it will be harder for homeowners to earn extra income through short-term rental of their home, which today is helping them cover expenses and mortgage payments.”
“Weakening Section 230 will damage Americans’ ability to communicate online. The beneficiaries of this bill are big hotel chains who want to raise room rates without worrying that guests would consider short-term rentals as an alternative.”
Despite the histrionics of high-tax enthusiasts, new tax cuts are producing incredible revenue for state tax coffers. Texas alone has seen a 15 percent tax revenue increase this year. And Texas Comptroller Hegar expects an 8 percent growth in the state’s tax collections over the next two years — an extra $9 billion more to the state.
Today, NetChoice filed, alongside Chris Cox, Former Member of Congress and Co-Author Of CDA Section 230, an amicus brief in HomeAway and Airbnb v Santa Monica. As the brief outlines, “the Panel opinion in this case upends the well-established meaning of the words of Section 230, and will have dramatic consequences by overriding the intent of Congress.”
“The prior Panel ruling by the ninth circuit violates the very principles Section 230 put into law and if left in place risks closing-off avenues for free enterprise and free speech for all Americans. We expect and support an overturning of the prior ruling,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice.
“Section 230 empowers individuals and businesses all over the country through the use of online platforms like HomeAway and Airbnb,” continued Szabo. “The prior decision runs contrary to multiple 9th Circuit decisions that have upheld Section 230 and enabled unprecedented innovation.”
The full amicus brief can be read here.