Airbnb drops controversial payment card in France

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PARIS (Reuters) - Short-term rental website Airbnb has agreed to withdraw a controversial payment system in France after government officials, including finance minister Bruno Le Maire, met with its managers on Monday.

The French government had asked tax authorities to look into the system, suspected of facilitating tax avoidance, after it was revealed that Airbnb was allowing its hosts to use the prepaid Payoneer card.

The card allows homeowners to receive payments for their rentals without money transiting through bank accounts.

The decision comes as Airbnb, similar to its taxi-hailing peer Uber, is facing a growing crackdown from legislators worldwide - triggered in part by lobbying from the hotel industry, which sees the rental service as providing unfair competition.

Airbnb said in a statement that all the payment tools made available to its hosts, including the Payoneer card, were “legal and had all the necessary authorizations to operate in France”.

It said that fewer than 1 percent of hosts in France used the system but had nevertheless decided to withdraw the card in the country “to respond to concerns tied to possible debit card abuse”.

“This responsible decision allows to avoid all opportunity for open fraud through the use of this payment tool,” the French Finance Ministry said in a statement.

Airbnb also came under pressure on Monday after the Paris city council put several flat-sharing and rental sites including Airbnb on formal notice, demanding the platforms take down listings lacking official registration numbers.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon,; Editing by Geert De Clercq and Ed Osmond