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Article

30 Mar 2020

Author:
Korea Herald

Hosts criticize Airbnb's refund policy in response to coronavirus outbreak for being unfair

“Airbnb hosts squeezed by COVID-19, angry at refund policies”, 30 March 2020

In January, Airbnb “Superhost” Diana Jeong quit her job as she was expecting a baby this spring. What she did not expect was a pandemic that would upend her transition to becoming a full-time Airbnb host…

Jeong, who has been on the platform for five years since she lived in the UK, claims Airbnb is being unfair to hosts with its new policies, which have been updated as the epidemic turns to a pandemic…

The US-based platform allows guests to cancel and receive a 100 percent refund for reservations that have nothing to do with the coronavirus, Jeong said…

… Cho Hyun, who manages two properties on the platform, said that he is also devastated by Airbnb’s new policies, which have resulted in changes that were retroactively applied to closed reservations or bookings that had nothing to do with the outbreak, pointing out that Airbnb carried out refunds without the hosts’ consent…

Some hosts have reported abuses of the system by guests, such as requesting refunds citing COVID-19 after already checking in and staying, just to find a cheaper place. They said Airbnb issued full refunds to those cases without verification that the cancellations were linked to the virus. A host whose surname is Kim said she was considering legal action jointly with other hosts who have had similar experiences…

 “This is a very difficult time for both guests and hosts. As global entry bans expand along with the spread of COVID-19, we had to take action to protect guests,” Airbnb Korea spokesperson Eum Sung-won told The Investor. “But we understand the ordeals that hosts are going through and are mulling various ways to support our hosts.”

Eum said in the case of abuse of the changes, the best policy is to rely on everyone’s honesty and to trust guests, saying, “Our first priority now is the health of the public and our guests and hosts.”…

Cho and Jeong are among the most vulnerable, because their listings, like many other domestic listings, are not entirely legal.

South Korea has not fully embraced the sharing economy and is a place where many globally successful platforms such as Uber have failed. And as it relies on existing laws to govern new types of business, it often creates complicated situations for hosts and guests alike.