Airbnb property owners in France accused of discrimination

Posted by On 3:09 AM

Airbnb property owners in France accused of discrimination

France Airbnb property owners in France accused of discrimination

Complaint alleges people with north African names refused bookings on holiday rental sites

A screen grab of the search page on Airbnb
France’s anti-discrimination federation Maison de Poters says a private homeowner can face fines of up to €45,000 and prison if convicted. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Several French holidaymakers with north African names are preparing to file a discrimination complaint with the France’s rights watchdog, claiming they were refused holiday rentals on online booking sites on the basis of t heir name.

The French journalist Merwane Mehadji told a France Inter radio investigation that discrimination was happening when bookings were made. “I wanted to book an apartment or house in Marseille on Airbnb or Abritel,” he said. Twice, the booking and payment went through but then was swiftly cancelled by the homeowner for no reason.

He added: “Two or three days later I saw online that the dates I had wanted to book were available again. Something didn’t seem right and people around me were saying: “It’s clear … you gave your first name and surname.’”

Mehadji said he asked a friend without a north African name to book the same dates for him and the owner replied within half an hour that those dates were free. “You realise that in fact, discrimination is at play,” the journalist said.

When Mehadji tweeted about his experiences this month, he said hundreds of people wrote to him complaining of the same thing. “There are tonnes of people that this is happening to each day,” he said.

Madjid Messaoudène, the head of equality at Saint-Denis town hall north of Paris, told the France Inter investigation he had twice been discriminated against because of his name on online booking sites. He added that it had now become common practice to ask friends with more “French-sounding names” to make the bookings instead â€" something he personally refused to do. “It’s essential to take this issue to the rights ombudsman,” he said.

Samuel Thomas of the anti-discrimination federation Maisons de Potes said it intended to pursue cases through the courts. He said a private homeowner could face a fine of up to €45,000 (£40,000) and three years in prison if convicted. He said the homeowner was considered to be the responsible party, but if an online platform was found to be aware of discriminatory practises and not acting to stop it, they could be seen as complicit.

Airbnb responded to the France Inter investigation by saying it worked to raise awareness of discrimination issues and had never faced any legal action over alleged discrimination issues. The website Abritel also said it had never faced a legal complaint over alleged discrimination.

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Source: Google News France | Netizen 24 France

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