EU Court Adviser: Google, Amazon, Airbnb Exempt from Italian Rule

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An adviser to the European Union’s top court has recommended that Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, and Airbnb are not required to comply with an Italian rule mandating them to provide information. The adviser argued that the companies are already subject to laws in Ireland and Luxembourg, where they are located. The dispute arose from an Italian regulation demanding that online service providers operating in Italy register, submit various information, and make financial contributions. Google, Amazon, and Airbnb challenged the rule, contending it contradicts EU legislation stating that online service providers are subject to the rules of their establishment country, with service-receiving countries refraining from applying their laws.

Legal Challenge and EU Legislation Conflict

Google, Airbnb, and Amazon, along with Expedia, objected to the Italian requirement, asserting that it infringes on EU legislation. The EU law specifies that online service providers are only bound by the rules of their establishment country. The companies argued that Italy cannot impose broad and abstract obligations on them, as they operate in Italy but are established in other EU member states—Ireland for Google and Airbnb, and Luxembourg for Amazon. The legal battle ensued as the Italian government sought to enforce the regulation, while the tech giants claimed their adherence to EU laws.

Advocate General’s Non-Binding Opinion

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar, delivering a non-binding opinion, sided with Google, Amazon, and Airbnb. He argued that a member state cannot impose general and abstract obligations on an online service provider operating within its territory but established in another member state. While the Advocate General’s opinion is not final, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) often follows such recommendations. The CJEU is expected to issue a ruling in the coming months on cases involving Airbnb Ireland, Amazon Services Europe, Google Ireland, Expedia, and Amazon Services Europe.

Implications for Online Service Providers and EU Legal Framework

The outcome of the legal challenge and the CJEU’s ruling could have significant implications for online service providers operating across EU member states. It addresses the conflict between national regulations seeking to impose obligations on such companies and the EU legal framework emphasizing adherence to the rules of their establishment country. The case highlights the ongoing tension between national sovereignty and harmonized regulations within the EU, impacting major technology and service companies operating in the region.

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