Hotel industry fumes as UK prepares to legalize Airbnb in London

Airbnb users have many options when they visit London, but they and their hosts are probably unaware that these short-term lets are often illegal. However, that’s about to change – much to the ire of the hotel industry.

On Monday, housing minister Brandon Lewis set out plans for short-term lets to be deregulated in London. A 42-year-old London law says that anyone wanting to rent out their home for less than 90 days must get planning permission to do so, or pay a £20,000 ($30,450) penalty per offence. The government now wants that law scrapped.

“We live in the 21st century, and London homeowners should be able to rent out their home for a short period without having to pay for a council permit. These laws … need to be updated for the internet age,” Lewis said in a statement.

However, the government would still restrict short-term letting to 90 days per calendar year or less, so that the properties don’t effectively become hotels. The properties also can’t be business premises, and councils will be able to apply for “small localized exemptions from the new flexibility, where there is a strong case to do so.”

I’d say it was very silly for London to have different rules from the rest of the country, regarding services such as Airbnb — so this move should be welcomed at least on that front. However, the hotel industry doesn’t quite see it that way.

The British Hospitality Association has been lobbying against these changes for quite some time and says it still has serious concerns about health and safety. In an emailed statement, Association policy director Jackie Grech said the relevant clause had been “hastily pushed through … without any concern for the consequences such as security, employment, housing shortages, anti-social behavior and the high quality reputation of tourism in the U.K.”

She added:

When the first claims come through, they could be serious injuries. It is possible to look out for the interests of community, customers and employees; the hospitality industry does this every day. These multi-billion dollar companies need to do the same and we are particularly concerned for small, family run establishments who have to compete with giant multi billion pound companies.

This all comes a few months after the publication of a U.K. government review of the so-called sharing economy, conducted by Debbie Wosskow, the CEO of home exchange platform Love Home Swap. Astonishingly, the review suggested that accommodation-sharing platforms should be less burdened with regulation.

TransferWise raises $58M in Andreessen Horowitz-led Series C

London-based online currency transfer outfit TransferWise has raised a $58 million Series C round that was led by Andreessen Horowitz. This follows a $25 million Series B round just seven months ago, which included Virgin chief Richard Branson and original backer Peter Thiel (who are also in the current round, along with Index Ventures, IA Ventures and Seedcamp.) Like CurrencyFair over in Ireland, TransferWise uses cash reserves in various countries to bypass the banks and offer conversion rates that are far cheaper than those offered by traditional banks and remittance services. According to the Financial Times, Andreessen Horowitz won a competitive bidding process to invest in TransferWise, which is now valued at “close to $1 billion”.

Wikileaks founder Assange says he will leave Ecuadorian embassy “soon”

Julian Assange will “soon” leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been taking refuge since breaking bail terms two years ago, the Wikileaks founder said Monday in a press conference. He provided no further details. Reports earlier on Monday suggested he is suffering from health issues. Assange has been hiding in the embassy since 2012, after being accused of rape and sexual coercion in Sweden a couple of years previously. The Australian fears being extradited to the U.S. over the leaking of classified military documents, via Wikileaks, by soldier Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning. Last year Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison over the leaks.

Google Ventures comes to Europe with $100M in its pocket

The web giant’s investment arm is setting up a London office. Details are pretty sketchy when it comes to the type of investments it will make, and it certainly isn’t the biggest pot in town, but Google says European startups have “enormous potential”.

Branson and Thiel join in $25M Series B round for forex upstart TransferWise

We’ve covered TransferWise quite a few times – along with one or two rivals such as CurrencyFair, the London-based financial technology startup offers a genuinely disruptive foreign exchange service that significantly undercuts the banks. Its backers apparently also continue to see great potential: having led TransferWise’s $6 million Series A round just over a year ago, PayPal(s ebay) co-founder Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures has again participated in the firm’s $25 million Series B, alongside Index Ventures, Virgin boss Richard Branson, IA Ventures, TAG, and Le Monde owner Xavier Niel. TransferWise, run by former Skype(s msft) director Taavet Hinrikus, says it will use the funds for marketing.

London cab drivers’ Uber tussle heads for the High Court

The city’s transport authority says it reckons the services of companies like Uber don’t qualify for regulation in the same way as traditional taxi services do, but it realizes the law is unclear on this point and wants senior judges to step in.

Google boosts ad integrity by buying British fraud fighters spider.io

Google(s goog) has bought London security startup spider.io, which deals in detecting ad fraud. Founder Douglas de Jager and his small team specialize in combating scams like hidden display ad inventory and click fraud botnets — swarms of computers that have been quietly co-opted by hackers to generate masses of click-throughs on website ads, driving revenue to the website owner without driving customers to the advertiser. Google said it will put the spider.io technology to use in its video and display ad products to give advertisers and publishers “a clearer, cleaner picture of what campaigns and media are truly delivering strong results.”