Airbnb says it will spend the next year verifying that all 7 million of its listings are accurate and that the homes and rooms being offered for short-term stays meet basic quality standards ater “events by bad actors on our platform took advantage of [our] trust,” says its CEO.
It’s one of several moves the San Francisco-based company is making to improve user trust and make it easier for guests, hosts and others to report problems and obtain refunds when things go awry.
Airbnb has thousands of listings across North Carolina with business increasing some 60 percent in 2018, the company reported earlier this year.
The changes come after a rough week for Airbnb. Last Thursday, a shooting at an unauthorized Halloween party in an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California, left five people dead.
A Vice story, meanwhile, revealed a scam by Airbnb hosts who put guests up at inferior properties after claiming the ones they initially booked weren’t available. Guests told Vice they had trouble obtaining refunds from the company and were given bad reviews by the shady hosts.
And on Tuesday, voters in Jersey City, New Jersey, approved restrictions on short-term rental companies in a referendum in one of Airbnb’s most important markets.
In an e-mail sent to employees Wednesday, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky said the company will take its most significant steps to improve trust since its founding in 2008.
“People need to feel like they can trust our community and that they can trust Airbnb when something goes wrong,” Chesky wrote.
“Airbnb is a business fueled by trust. When we started Airbnb in 2008, people said it would never work. “Strangers will never trust one another,” they said. But we believed that people are fundamentally good, and that we could design a system for strangers to trust one another. Our real innovation is not allowing people to book a home; it’s designing a framework to allow millions of people to trust one another. Trust is the real energy source that drives Airbnb and has enabled us to scale our platform to 191 countries and to more than 600 million members.
“But recently, events by bad actors on our platform took advantage of that trust, including at a home in Orinda, California. We intend to do everything possible to learn from these incidents when they occur. ”
Airbnb’s moves include:
Starting now, verification of all seven million listings on Airbnb will commence. Homes will be verified for accuracy of the listing (including accuracy of photos, addresses, and listing details) and quality standards (including cleanliness, safety, and basic home amenities) and those that meet our high expectations will be clearly labeled. By December 15, 2020, every home and every host on Airbnb will be reviewed with the objective of 100% verification. We believe that trust on the Internet begins with verifying the accuracy of the information on Internet platforms, and we believe that this is an important step for our industry.
Beginning on December 15, 2019, if upon checking into a listing it does not meet our accuracy standards, Airbnb will rebook the guest a new listing of equal or greater value, or they will get 100% of their money back. Most hosts do a great job, but guests need to feel like Airbnb has their back, and we believe this commitment is a necessary step in giving guests peace of mind.
Airbnb Neighbor Hotline
We are launching a new 24/7 Neighbor Hotline so that anyone can call us anytime, anywhere in the world and reach a real person at Airbnb. We will staff this hotline with a rapid response team so that neighbors can reach us directly with their concerns, and our phone number will be placed prominently on our homepage, in our app, and easily searchable on Google. We are developing a training program and protocols for our rapid response team, and we have asked Charles Ramsey, former Chief of both the Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Police Departments, and Ronald Davis, the former Chief of East Palo Alto Police Department and President Obama’s Executive Director of Community Oriented Policing Services, to advise us. This will launch in the United States by December 31, 2019, and will roll out globally over the course of 2020.
High Risk Human Review
To address unauthorized house parties, beginning on December 15, and informed by previous pilots, we are expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations flagged by our risk detection models to all of North America, with global rollout through 2020. This will help identify suspicious reservations and stop unauthorized parties before they start. For example, we look at the duration of the stay and listing attributes such as the size of the listing, amongst hundreds of other factors. Risk scoring helps us focus our attention and find the needle in the haystack.
IPO in 2020?
The company is under some pressure to improve its reputation as it eyes an initial public offering of stock next year.
“Most hosts do a great job, but guests need to feel like Airbnb has their back, and we believe this commitment is a necessary step in giving guests peace of mind,” Chesky wrote.
But critics of the company say its efforts don’t go far enough. If Airbnb really wants to be a good neighbor, it would verify that listings are complying with local regulations, said Jessica Black, who leads a Texas group called Moms Against STRS, which backs regulation of short-term rentals.
“By not voluntarily removing illegal listings, Airbnb continues to outsource the costs of their business to cash-strapped cities,” Black said.