Q. Airbnb has deactivated our account for no apparent reason. We have only used Airbnb three times over the past three years. Each rental worked out great. Our last rental was in the summer of 2017.
We attempted to book a rental in the past three weeks, but we were stopped halfway through the booking process. After several calls and e-mails to Airbnb, we received an e-mail that said: “We regret to inform you that we’ll be unable to support your account moving forward, and have exercised our discretion under our Terms of Service to disable your account.” Airbnb goes on to say: “This decision is irreversible and will affect any duplicated or future accounts. Please understand that we are not obligated to provide an explanation for the action taken against your account.”
I know of no reason why this action would have been taken. Airbnb commands a huge percentage of this market. Being shut out for no reason feels randomly discriminatory. Can you help us get back on Airbnb?
A. You’re not the first person to be banned by Airbnb, and you definitely will not be the last. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to fire a customer, and their way seems wrong.
Airbnb reserves the right to terminate your account if you have “materially breached” its terms. That includes violating its payment terms, policies or standards or applicable laws, regulations or third-party rights. Airbnb can also cut you loose to protect the personal safety or property of Airbnb, its members, or third parties.
The e-mail you received is a standard termination notice. It’s so vague that you might never know why the rental site made its decision to fire you. I’m troubled by the line “Please understand that we are not obligated to provide an explanation for the action taken against your account.” While that was probably written by the lawyers, it really makes me wonder about the company’s customer service commitment. It says, “We can do whatever we want and we don’t have to justify it to you.”
Airbnb operates in mysterious ways. I once received a negative rating from a host even though her review was positive. I checked with Airbnb, and it turns out a host can give an internal “star” rating to a customer that the customer never sees. But the review triggered an automatic e-mail from Airbnb, warning me that I’d gotten a bad review.
Transparency is good for everyone, so it’s disappointing when a company like Airbnb acts this way. Airbnb should have given you an honest answer about your suspension and offered a way to fix it. You could have appealed your case to an executive at Airbnb. I list the names, numbers, and e-mail addresses of Airbnb’s customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site.
I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. It reviewed your account and found that your suspension happened “during our routine system check up.” You’re back on Airbnb.Christopher Elliott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.