Fury over major Airbnb cancellation policy change

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Aussies have been left confused over a late night email from Airbnb explaining a major new cancellation policy change.

The US-based homestay rental company sent the message late on Good Friday.

I said it will no longer cover guests who are unable to travel to their reservation due to a natural disaster or government travel restriction.

It sent the update in an email to Australian Airbnb users on Friday night, stating the new policy will take effect on June 6.

The email said while “foreseeable events” at the location of the Airbnb would continue to be covered, events that impact a guest’s ability to travel would not.

“The policy will only apply to events in the place where the reservation is located,” it said.

The email also said that continued use of the platform from June 6 “constitutes acceptance” of the updated “Major Disruptive Events Policy”.

In a statement to news.com.au, a spokeswoman for Airbnb said the policy update was made for “clarity” between guests and hosts.

“The changes to this policy, including its new name, were made to create clarity for our guests and Hosts and ensure it’s meeting the diverse needs of our global community,” she said.

“Our aim was to clearly explain when the policy applies to a reservation, and to deliver fair and consistent outcomes for our users. These updates also bring the policy in line with industry standards.”

The change sparked dozens of users to post their outrage on social media. Many were also confused by the wording of the statement.

“Like I needed a reason not to use them!” one user wrote.

“I’m all for watching Airbnb dying out,” another wrote.

Airbnb has been accused of fuelling Australia’s rental crisis in recent years with approximately two per cent of properties nationwide now listed as “short-term rentals”.

Earlier this month, a Perth woman was slammed after listing a single bed on her veranda to rent for $130 per night, describing it as ideal for “someone who likes to wake up with the sun and the birds”.

The woman – known as Kristie – had been renting out the alfresco space in the affluent suburb of Mosman Park over the summer. The outdoor “bedroom” with a single bed was listed on Airbnb for $130 per night – though the advertisement has since been taken down.

Last year, Airbnb’s relationship with Australians hit a new low after it was forced to pay $15 million on top of a fine of the same amount due to misleading customers.

The Federal Court ordered the online accommodation platform to cough up the $30 million after it was found to have made false or misleading representations to users in Australia by failing to let customers know that prices listed on the site were in US dollars rather than Australian dollars.

Airbnb acknowledged that it displayed only a dollar sign without indicating which currency was on more than 63,000 listings between 1 January 2018 and 30 August 2021.

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