Six members of the House of Representatives have demanded answers from Airbnb on what they deem to be deceptive practices, and misleading hosts and listings.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Robin Kelly (D-IL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) want Airbnb to explain its plans to deal with “deceptive” limited liability corporations disguising themselves as hosts on the platform to market short-term rentals that are out of compliance with local laws and the company’s own policies.
The letter, to CEO Brian Chesky, also requests information about misleading listings that have left customers in poor housing conditions, and seeks a meeting with Airbnb executives in the next two weeks.
It comes after a VICE News investigative report published on Oct. 31 uncovered a nationwide network of scams swindling renters. In response, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO, said the company is making plans to be “100% verified” by the end of 2020. All hosts and listings will be reviewed as part of the process, with the goal of making sure that hosts are who they say they are, photos and information are accurate, and the locations meet safety standards.
“Despite Airbnb’s stated ‘One Host, One Home’ policy, media reports have raised concerns about the proliferation of limited liability corporations on your platform … deceptive and misleading listings have also led to customers being scammed by ‘hosts’ who abuse Airbnb’s cancellation policies to trick guests into unsuitable housing conditions for monetary gain,” the Congress members wrote.
“While we appreciate that you have frequently stated that Airbnb has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy, it also seems clear that you have failed to authenticate host identities in a way that would prevent bad actors from continuing to rent through your platform under false identities after being banned.”
The letter includes 20 questions intended to clarify Airbnb’s policies and practices, for instance:
- How the company intends to define a “host,” and how the company vets its hosts;
- How the company will enforce policy violations from hosts who mislead customers and the public about their identities or listings;
- How the company will verify that units meet so-called “basic safety protocols;”
- And whether the company’s efforts to categorize “high-risk reservations,” will consider age, race, gender, or other personal traits.