Press Statements

Legislation Will Imperil Short-Term Renters from Anacostia to Brookland

Washington DC, November 12, 2018 – The future of short-term rentals (STRs) throughout the nation’s capital is being put at risk by DC Council Bill – B22-0092 which would introduce a licensing system that would eliminate nearly all current short-term rentals like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO.

The bill would:

  • impose zoning requirements that effectively eliminate nearly all short-term rentals;
  • require short-term rental platforms to share private information about hosts with the city government;
  • cost the city over $104 million in lost taxes and implementation costs;
  • eliminate short-term rental competition allowing big-hotels to gouge visitors to the nation’s capital.

“Big hotels are the only real winners of DC’s anti-home sharing bill.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President at NetChoice. “The city’s latest anti-tech action threatens resident’s privacy and financial security.”

“I can think of a better way for the city to spend $100 million.”

“DC is going after short-term rentals to the detriment of home owners and at a cost of $104 million,” continued Szabo. “The City Council’s proposed rules would burden residents who use STR platforms to help make ends meet.”

A copy of coalition opposition letter can be found at: https://netchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/Association-Joint-DC-Council-Letter-150.pdf

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce and online businesses that share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

NetChoice Calls For Federal Privacy Legislation to Stop Fracturing of the Internet

Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice filed comments with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (“NTIA”) request for comments on Request for Comments on Developing the Administration’s Approach to Consumer Privacy.

“We are seeing a fracturing of the internet driven by states introducing disparate privacy bills.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President of NetChoice. “The time has come for establishment of a nationwide standard for privacy online.”

“Americans should ask for a better privacy approach than what Europe and California concocted. Americans deserve a privacy law that doesn’t remove services and stymie innovation.” continued Szabo. “Federal privacy legislation should allow for industry safe-harbors similar to those in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”

Read Comments to NTIA

NetChoice Warns Lawmakers: Americans Reject Government in Tech

Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice warned President Trump that heavy-handed regulations on tech platforms is out-of-step with his electorate.

“When President Trump says he would regulate online platforms for alleged anti-conservative bias, he really means he would suppress free expression,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “Government suppression of negative news and views about the President would blatantly violate the constitution.”

“Other policy proposals being thrown out by beltway pundits and think tanks are even more unpopular,” continued DelBianco. “Whether it’s competition and antitrust, advertising or parental controls, Americans overwhelmingly oppose government intervention in tech. 90% of Americans don’t think the government should block tech company acquisitions and 95% think the government should not focus on trying to break them up.”

NetChoice’s comments follow statements made by President Trump during a press briefing on the results of yesterday’s Midterm Election.

Learn more about NetChoice’s recent poll at netchoice.org/techlashpoll.

“Palm Beach County Short-Term Rental Ordinance is Unconstitutional and Undermines Homeowners’ Personal Privacy”, NetChoice Says

October 15, 2018 – Efforts by Palm Beach County to regulate short-term rentals (STRs) infringes on the constitutional rights of homeowners, invades the privacy of county residents and undermines a vital economic engine to the local economy, NetChoice filed in legal testimony today.

Proposed Ordinance 95-30 would require online STR platforms, like Homeaway, Airbnb and VRBO, to disclose user data to the government or face liability requirements.

NetChoice believes the ordinance:

  • Violates the U.S. constitution.
  • Breaks federal Internet law.
  • Prevents local residents from earning extra income and would have wide-ranging negative impacts on the local economy.
  • Threatens the privacy of local residents.

“Palm Beach County is flaunting years of federal protections that have benefitted consumers and enabled the Internet to become a vital economic engine for local, state and national economies,” said Carl Szabo, VP and General Counsel for NetChoice. “The existence of short-term rentals in Palm Beach benefits local residents as much as it does tourists. STRs allow local homeowners to pay their mortgages and afford the added burdens of local taxes and hurricane insurance. Visitors save money by staying in STRs enabling them to have extra cash to spend at local restaurants and stores.”

NetChoice’s testimony detailed how Palm Beach’s proposed ordinance breaks the 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution, as it requires unreasonable search and seizure of personal information.  Further, the proposed ordinance also violates the Communications Decency Act,  which protects online platforms from being legally responsible for content posted by their users. The law’s existence has enabled consumers and businesses to conduct billions of dollars of commerce on the internet.

New DOT Guidelines Will Put Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Into Gear, Says NetChoice

NetChoice, which counts Waymo and Lyft as members, applauded new guidelines from the Department of Transportation (DOT) that foster innovation while still prioritizing safety.

“DOT’s new guidelines put self-driving cars into gear and onto the roads.” said Carl Szabo, VP and General Counsel at NetChoice.

“DOT guidelines will drive the autonomous vehicle industry to innovate while maintaining public safety,” continued Szabo. “The guidelines are forward looking, taking into account that cars of the future may not have many features of today’s cars, such as steering wheels, gas pedals and mirrors.”

The guidelines also push states and localities to remove barriers to autonomous vehicle testing and to ensure the growth of new technologies and interoperability. The new guidelines also allow car manufacturers to self-define their cars as self-driving rather than having to comply with a specific description. These are just two of many ways the DOT will ensure effective regulations that do not burden innovators.

“Autonomous vehicles are the future of road transportation, and the DOT has provided guidelines that will allow America to lead in the adoption of this revolutionary technology,” continued Szabo.

NYC Short-Term Rental Law Is Unconstitutional, NetChoice States

Forcing Businesses to Turn Over Private and Personal Customer Information Violates the Rights of all New Yorkers

Washington, D.C., October-1, 2018 – Local Law 146, a short-term rental law passed by the New York City (NYC) Council and signed into law by Mayor de Blasio in August violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and needs to be amended, NetChoice says.

NetChoice filed in the court cases of Airbnb vs. NYC and HomeAway vs. NYC. Both Airbnb and Homeway are seeking preliminary injunctions against NYC’s Local Law 146.

Local Law 146 requires short-term rental (STR) platforms to disclose private and personal information of hosts who reserve STRs through them. This law is an attempt by the city government to improve enforcement of strict regulations on STRs.

However, NetChoice believes that the law has three fatal flaws as it:

  • Breaks the 4th Amendment of the Constitution
  • Defies the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act
  • Violates New York State privacy laws

“New York’s fight against their own residents has lead them to defy the constitution and violate the rights of New Yorkers,” continued Szabo. “New York’s Southern District Court should protect the rights of NYC homeowners. The city’s anti-home sharing laws are dysfunctional and to enforce them New York is trampling residents’ right to privacy.”

NetChoice Calls on Senate Committee to Resist Heavy-Handed Regulation

Washington D.C., September 25 – Today, NetChoice called on members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transport Committee to resist imposing heavy-handed regulations on online platforms. The hearing, “Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy” will take place on Wednesday, September 24th. New polling from NetChoice and Zogby Analytics shows Americans have little appetite for heavy-handed government regulation of tech platforms.

“Congress should listen to Americans and resist the temptation to overregulate tech platforms,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “The vast majority (71%) of Americans prefer that advertising continues to pay for their free online services. Heavy-handed regulation could undermine the business models Americans want and would lead to fewer services and more paywalls.”

Polling shows 4 out of 5 Americans with an opinion think new regulations on internet services would harm choice and freedom online. Polling also showed that Americans are not locked-in to existing platforms. 43% have stopped using a social media platform at some point, but less than 1% did so because of a change in privacy policy.

“Don’t interrupt the online experiences and innovation that Americans enjoy,” continued DelBianco. “Americans have no appetite for heavy-handed government regulations, and Congress should listen to them.”

*About the Survey: From August 6-8, 2018 Zogby Analytics conducted an interactive survey of 1,222 adults focused on consumer attitudes toward Internet platforms and government regulation. The survey, commissioned by NetChoice, has a margin of error of +/- 2.8%. More information can be found at netchoice.org/TechLashPoll.

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce businesses who share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

Anti-Home Sharing Bill Would Hurt Thousands in the District

WASHINGTON, September 25, 2018 – A newly proposed ordinance would decimate DC’s robust short-term rental market, depriving home-owners of their property rights and hurting neighborhood restaurants and small businesses that benefit from short-term rentals in the District.

The proposed restrictions on short-term rentals, to be released later today, are accompanied by a half-million-dollar ad campaign funded by the big hotel chains – who want to eliminate competition from short-term rentals.   LaSalle Hotel Properties’s CEO told investors that a law curtailing short-term rental services would allow hotels to boost their room rates.

“Washington DC already gives millions in tax breaks to big hotels, and Council should not give hotels another handout by curtailing the property rights of District home owners,” said Carl Szabo, General Counsel of NetChoice.

Short-term rentals provide much-needed income to hundreds of DC residents.  Over 52 percent of short-term rental hosts nationwide live in low-to-moderate income households. And almost half of the income hosts earn through short-term rentals helps them cover household expenses.  Moreover, there are hundreds of local restaurants, shops, and cleaning services that benefit from the activity of short-term rentals.

“This legislation has been marred by misinformation and process problems and should not be rammed through in the closing days of this year’s final Council session.   This issue deserves a robust public discussion and economic impact analysis,” continued Szabo.

“This bill will harm thousands of DC residents who rely on short-term rentals, not just home owners, but small businesses that benefit from the economic boost created by short term renting.”

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce businesses who share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

President Trump & Attorney General Sessions Lack Support for Breaking Up Tech, New Netchoice Survey Finds

Just 5% of Americans Want Antitrust Focus on Tech

WASHINGTON, September 24, 2018 – Americans overwhelmingly value the contributions of the technology industry and do not support antitrust enforcement, despite aggressive rhetoric from President Trump, a new NetChoice survey* of 1,200 U.S. consumers found.

President Trump has placed America’s largest tech platforms in the crosshairs of U.S. antitrust authorities.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also holding a meeting with several State Attorneys General today to discuss accusations of social media bias. But Americans don’t support an antitrust crack down on America’s most innovative businesses.

New polling shows that only about 5% of Americans (on both sides of the political aisles) say the federal government should focus anti-competitive enforcement on the tech industry. Further, just 1 in 5 Americans say the break-up of big tech would most benefit consumers.

The value of tech to consumers and businesses is clear.

Over 70% of Americans say that digital advertising platforms like Google and Facebook are valuable to both small businesses and the national economy. Just 13% say that they have had a negative experience with large Internet platforms and 72% say that services like Facebook, Google, and Amazon make it easier for them to connect with people in their community.

“President Trump’s fixation on breaking up tech platforms lacks support from Americans,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice. “Antitrust policy needs to be guided by facts, not emotional outbursts. The government cannot violate the First Amendment by forcing Internet platforms to suppress negative news. Internet platforms are a boon for American consumers, businesses, and, in turn, the U.S. economy. The President should listen to regular Americans and allow U.S. tech companies to continue to thrive and innovate.”

*About the Survey: From August 6-8, 2018 Zogby Analytics conducted an interactive survey of 1,222 adults focused on consumer attitudes toward Internet platforms and government regulation. The survey, commissioned by NetChoice, has a margin of error of +/- 2.8%.  It is available at NetChoice.org/TechlashPoll

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce businesses and online consumers all of whom share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

NetChoice Commends Sensenbrenner Bill Protecting Small Businesses From SCOTUS Internet Sales Tax Decision

Washington, D.C., September 14 – This afternoon, Reps. Reps. Sensenbrenner, Eshoo, Duncan, and Lofgren introduced the Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act of 2018. This legislation is a response to the chaos caused by the June-2018 Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

The Court overturned decades of legal precedent and put small business owners at the mercy of all out-of-state sales tax collectors, covering more than 12,000 local tax jurisdictions.

Below, please find a statement from Steve DelBianco of NetChoice regarding the introduction of HR 6824 this afternoon:

“The U.S. Congress has the Constitutional role of protecting interstate commerce.  Reps. Sensenbrenner, Eshoo, Duncan, and Lofgren are to be commended for stepping into the breach created when the U.S. Supreme Court erased 60 years of settled law that restrained state tax collectors from reaching across their borders.

America’s small businesses cannot survive under the complex burdens and audit risks from 46 different state sales tax regimes. HR 6824 incentivizes all states to significantly simplify their sales tax systems.”

American Consumers Reject Government Intervention in Tech:  “Let Us Pick Internet Platform Winners and Losers,” New NetChoice Research Finds

AMERICAN CONSUMERS REJECT GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN TECH:  “LET US PICK INTERNET PLATFORM WINNERS AND LOSERS,” NEW NETCHOICE RESEARCH FINDS

Just 5% Say Regulators Should Focus Anti-Competitive Enforcement on Tech

Americans Prefer Interest-Based Ads Over Paying for Content By a 3-1 Margin

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018, Washington, DC – State and federal legislators on both sides of the aisle have called for more regulation of the technology industry. However, new research from NetChoice shows that Americans want a light regulatory touch for tech companies, believing that consumer spending and online surfing habits should be the ultimate means of ensuring competition and consumer choice.

According to a survey* of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers conducted by Zogby Analytics, only 5% said that regulators should focus anti-competitive enforcement on the tech industry. Only 10% think the government should prevent successful online businesses from acquiring other companies.

“There is a disconnect between American consumers and the anti-tech community,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice. “Americans prefer to make their own decisions rather than having a heavy-handed government determine what is ‘best’ for them.” Read more

President Trump’s Heat on Tech Industry Not in Sync with Americans and His Base

President Trump’s Heat on Tech Industry Not in Sync with Americans and His Base

New Polling Shows by a 7-to-1 margin Republicans believe online regulation would harm consumer freedom and choice on the internet

Washington, D.C., August 29, 2018 – President Trump’s attack on America’s most popular online search provider Google along with regulatory threats from White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow are not supported by most Americans, according to new research from NetChoice.

NetChoice found that by a 7-to-1 margin, Republicans agree, rather than disagree, with the idea that online regulation would harm consumer freedom and choice on the internet.

“When the Administration says they are “taking a look” at regulating Google Search results, they really mean that they plan on regulating political speech,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice.

“Forcing Google to demote critical news about President Trump blatantly conflicts with the first amendment and endangers all forms of online expression. Businesses must be allowed to do what is best for their users.

The basic tenets of capitalism need to hold true on the Internet. Consumers pick winners and losers, not bureaucrats.”

To see NetChoice’s view on conservative concerns about social media content moderation, see here and here.

About the Polling

NetChoice commissioned research firm Zogby Analytics to conduct an interactive survey of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers from Aug. 6-8. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.8%. The entire survey will be publicly available in September.

In Comments on FTC Workshops NetChoice Warns about Following Anti-tech Rhetoric

Today, NetChoice filed responses to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) request for comments for upcoming workshops.  NetChoice responded on several topics, such as “The Consumer Welfare Implications Associated with The Use of Algorithmic Decision Tools, Artificial Intelligence, and Predictive Analytics” and “Evaluating the Competitive Effects of Corporate Acquisitions and Mergers”. The full list of responses are supplied at the bottom of this statement.

“Contrary to the claims of anti-tech advocates, self-regulation is working. Consumers today have access to a smorgasbord of products, services, and information thanks to the internet,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice. “There is no dearth of competition. The market has never been more competitive.” Read more

NetChoice Releases Policy Note on Car Rental Handouts

Last week, alongside the publishing of this article on The Drive, NetChoice released a new policy note, examining the large handouts big rental car companies receive.

The note shows that car rental companies receive a national yearly total of over $3 billion in tax breaks.

The note also provides data showing how much rental car companies received in sales tax exemptions in 2016.

Unlike car rental companies, people who use apps like Turo to lease out their cars do not enjoy these tax breaks

Ignoring this multi-billion dollar tax break, car rental companies claim that peer-to-peer car sharing platforms like Turo are the same as car rental companies.  Big car rental companies are using “level playing field” rhetoric to justify calls for stiff regulations onto peer-to-peer car platforms designed to skew in favor of big rental.

Read the full policy note here, and take a look at press coverage on its findings by Reason Magazine and The Drive.

NetChoice to Congress: Protect Interstate Commerce

Without the physical presence rule, American businesses and consumers are put at risk by state-based internet taxes

Washington, D.C., July 23, 2018 – Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Examining the Wayfair decision and its Ramifications for Consumers and Small Businesses”. The hearing is the first step for Congress to prevent damage being done by last month’s Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

“Because of Wayfair, businesses have no clear test to determine whether they are obligated to pay a foreign state’s sales tax,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice. “Sellers are left with a dilemma to either collect tax that they may not owe at significant expense, or risk later being held responsible for uncollected taxes plus interest and penalties.”

“The Commerce Clause is just as necessary now as when the constitution was written, and Congress must protect interstate commerce in the digital age,” continued DelBianco. “The time to act is now, and the longer Congress leaves the state tax playpen unsupervised, the worse the mess will be for American small businesses and consumers.”

“The court misunderstood the true audit liability faced by America’s small businesses and there’s no guarantee that tax software services will be paid for by the states.”

NetChoice has supplied a written statement for the record available here.

New York City Passes Short-Term Rental Bill, Outsourcing Legal Enforcement Burden to Internet Platforms Like Airbnb, Homeaway & VRBO

Rules Will Imperil Short-Term Renters from Springfield Gardens to Hell’s Kitchen

NEW YORK, July 18, 2018 – The future of short-term rentals (STRs) throughout New York City was put at risk today by New York City Council’s passing of Int. 9081 placing legal enforcement responsibilities on Internet home sharing platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO.

The proposal would:

  • place a minimum fine of $1,500 on STR platforms every time a property owner makes inaccurate claims on a short-term rental post regardless of intention;
  • require platforms to obtain, manage and certify that every property owner is abiding by local jurisdiction or homeowners association rules;
  • require short-term rental platforms to share all private transaction data, such as bank account numbers, with government agencies.

“New York City risks the sensitive financial data of its residents and tourists by forcing them to hand over bank account numbers to government agencies,” said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice.

“The city’s latest anti-tech action threatens New Yorkers’ privacy and financial security, forcing many to choose between protecting their financial information and paying their mortgage.”

“New York is once again going after short-term rentals by mandating hefty requirements on platforms, many of which could be illegal,” continued Szabo. “The City Council’s proposed rules would burden New Yorkers who use STR platforms to help make ends meet.”

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce and online businesses that share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

US Supreme Court Deals Body Blow To Consumers and Small Online Businesses, NetChoice Says

Ruling in Favor of South Dakota Will Cause Chaos Nationally If Congress Does Not Act

WASHINGTON, DC, June 21, 2018 – The U.S. Supreme Court today upended decades of precedent to deliver a ruling in favor of South Dakota that will burden small catalog and web retailers and harm the consumers who rely on them.  The decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair will unleash a summer of chaos as small businesses struggle to comply with the conflicting tax rules of more than 12,000 local tax jurisdictions across 46 states.

“Small web businesses will be hardest hit,” said Chris Cox, NetChoice outside counsel, “particularly those with only a single location, because they can’t afford the overhead to comply with thousands of different tax rules across the country.  Consumers will quickly feel the negative effects as those businesses dry up or are forced into the arms of Internet giants.”

Cox, a former Congressman who authored the Internet Tax Freedom Act, believes the Court disregarded the clear intent of Congress in that law. “The last hope for consumers and small online business owners is for Congress to take action.  It should be Congress, not the courts, that sets the rules for interstate sales tax collection,” he added.

“While a fraction of online commerce was free of sales tax before this ruling, the Supreme Court has now created an even greater imbalance by placing far greater burdens on Internet shopping compared to its “offline” counterparts,” said Steve DelBianco, President and CEO of NetChoice. “A brick-and-mortar business won’t have to comply with the differing rules of over 12,000 tax jurisdictions, or integrate costly and complex tax software into its operations.  But small web businesses will, eating away at their already razor-thin profit margins.  When these businesses disappear, consumers will be the biggest losers.”

“The court has legislated from the bench,” continued DelBianco, “but it lacks the tools Congress has to protect interstate commerce and reduce regulatory complexity.  Congress should immediately address this situation by delivering a law that harmonizes the interests of consumers, small businesses, and state governments.”

9th Circuit Decision Scores a Big Win For Ridesharing Drivers and Riders of Seattle

Washington D.C. – NetChoice applauds today’s 9th Circuit decision in US Chamber v City of Seattle.  The Court struck down Seattle’s 2015 ordinance as it violated antitrust laws.  Had it been allowed to stand, Seattle’s Ordinance would have enabled collusion by ridesharing drivers and empowered them to form cartels and collectively bargain against ridesharing platforms.

“This is a victory for riders and drivers in Seattle’s ridesharing industry,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “The peer-to-peer economy relies on flexibility without which many drivers would have fewer options to make ends meet.”

“Without this decision, Seattle riders would expect higher prices and drivers could lose flexibility in choosing when and for whom they work.  We’re happy the 9th Circuit has rejected this ordinance and preserved the positive impact of ridesharing in Seattle.”

Austin Transportation Department Shouldn’t Pick Winners and Losers for Bike Sharing Services

Austin consumers will face fewer and more expensive bike-sharing options if a new permit application process proposed by the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) goes into effect.

At the heart of the issue is the Austin city government’s apparent preference for one type of bike sharing model – bikes that lock into fixed docks wherever the city decides to put them.  These docked bikes are only available where docks are located and must be returned to a docking station.

Competition and choice has arrived in Austin, in the form of dockless bike providers that allow riders to pick-up and drop-off their bikes where they please. No docking is required.   Dockless bikes are a convenient alternative to more expensive and hard-to-find docked bikes, and bring bike-sharing to many neighborhoods that aren’t served by docking platforms.

The proposed ATD rules make it nearly impossible for dockless bike providers to run a viable service for city residents.  While that might help the legacy docked bike system, it’s no help to Austin residents in neighborhoods that don’t have a docking station.  Proposed limitations on dockless bikes include:

  • All bikes must be equipped with expensive “haptic technology” to ensure the user has parked the bike in a designated geo-fenced area or must lock to some form of infrastructure.
  • No bike parking allowed on Austin city blocks designated as a “Landscape” or “No Furniture” zone.
  • Bike providers must find a way for customers to use their App – even for customers who don’t have a smartphone.

“If Austin had the choice back when they started their docked bike-sharing system, the city would surely have chosen dockless over docked bikes,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice.  “The ATD proposal flies in the face of good city planning and customer service. Dockless systems are far less expensive to implement, and serve residents in neighborhoods that are never going to get a docking platform.”

“City managers should focus on offering Austin citizens better choices and convenience, but here Austin regulators are making rules to protect their prior investments in inferior bike sharing systems.”