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Booking.com and Airbnb are flirting with mega lawsuits in Greece

Locked fire exists or no fire exits in Greek touristic rentals are common

Ecommerce giants Booking.com and Airbnb are flirting with mega lawsuits and disaster in Greece. Multiple properties listed by both sites do not comply with EU fire safety regulations and besides a risk of lawsuits to booking agents: there is the real risk to life in the event of a fire.

Greece and EU laws:

Greece is a country that agrees to every EU directive, adopting and implementing almost none of it except for tax reforms. The EU, for it’s part, seems to be mainly successful at implementing tax collection in Greece, with little progress where public safety is concerned. Two of the most critical areas where Greece is not following mandatory EU directives seem concerns fire safety and smoking in public. A lax and often used excuse is the recent financial crisis – however this did not stop the country from hosting record tourist arrivals in recent years, where hotel and apartment owners profited substantially.

Fire safety in Europe and Greece:

The law requires that in all European buildings, occupants must have access to an unobstructed fire safety exit. In reality, many buildings where apartments are rented out to tourists in Greece, have only one exit – which is locked from the inside. This means that if someone attempts to exit the building without a key, they are locked in and are prevented from leaving.

Where specific EU fire safety breaches occurred:

One would think that in wealthy neighborhoods where finances are more readily available, these breaches of important EU fire safety regulations will be less prevalent. Yet this is not the case. Recently, an Airbnb apartment in the heart of Kolonaki, Athens – Tsakalof 10 to be precise, had a locked exit that required a key to exit from the inside. A Booking.com apartment, known as Athens Plaka Penthouse PL3 was found to have the exact same fire safety breach.

Conclusion: Airbnb and Booking.com may have good insurance, but this is not enough:

Tourists rely on services such as Airbnb and Booking.com to source safe places of accommodation. As much as reputable hotel operators will not add an unsafe hotel building to their inventory, so should Airbnb and Booking.com make safety a priority.  Corfu, Greece, is one of few places in Europe where carbon monoxide deaths occurred. Regardless of these serious events, there is still a general failure to observe the most basic fire safety regulations. With smoking law, on the other hand, many locals simply say: “Smoking is not the most common cause of death in Greece, so we’re OK”. There is enough proof that Greece is not a serious player when it get’s to taking precautions to ensure safer tourism. It is therefore up to corporations who deal with suppliers in the country, to demonstrate due care.

There could be a happy ending to this story: Hopefully the board members of both these ecommerce giants will step up and do more for public safety than what the “competent authorities” were able to do till now.

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Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment and business. He covers mostly topics related to his qualifications. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media. He also writes for Jpost.com, BestTechie, CEOWorld Magazine and other media outlets.
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