Regulators have forced Airbnb to rectify a major flaw in its customer review system which meant that until now some of the worst listings have escaped bad reviews.
Currently, guests who decide to cancel their stay or leave early because the apartment or house is a bit of a dump cannot automatically leave a review. They are usually offered a refund – minus the Airbnb fee, which they lose – but then their booking is only shown as “cancelled”. It means customers looking at the reviews of a property have no idea that previous renters thought the place was so bad they could not stay there.
Only those who persist and go through Airbnb’s customer services department have been able to leave unhappy reviews after deciding to leave a property early, until now.
Following a intervention by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Airbnb has now agreed to change its online reviews policy. The change will come into force on 31 August.
The CMA said it had been made aware of the problem as part of its bigger investigation into online reviews, which are now a vital tool for consumers thinking of using a site.
Airbnb guests will be able to leave feedback on the suitability of the host or the accommodation, or why they chose to cut short their stay. They will be able to do so regardless of whether they cancelled on the day of check-in or during their visit, said the CMA.
Gordon Ashworth, CMA project director, said: “Airbnb is a popular platform used by people searching for accommodation, and the online reviews and opinions left by other guests are an important source of information. We were concerned that, if someone cut short their stay, it was too hard for them to leave a review under Airbnb’s existing reviews system and so we are pleased that Airbnb engaged constructively with us and committed to making the necessary changes.”
The Guardian understands that the changes will be made worldwide – whether British residents are involved in the booking or not.
An Airbnb spokesman said: “Open and honest reviews are core to making Airbnb a trusted travel platform for millions of hosts and guests in 191 countries around the world. We are committed to doing all we can to facilitate meaningful and authentic connections across our global community. Ensuring that all of our hosts and guests can leave a review, regardless of whether the reservation was completed in full or not, will continue to strengthen our mutual review system.”
Thanks for this information @David. Do you know if hosts can leave a review as well under this new rule? If a host cancels a guest because of suspicious behavior, breaking rules, bringing more people... We should be able to leave a review as well. It is not only the guest who makes a decision based on reviews, it is the host as well. Thoughts?
I do not know.
Logically should work both ways.
Oh! Thanks, @David. In another thread a host is perplexed at being asked to leave a review even though the guest cancelled same day but before setting foot on the property (thus receiving no refund). This explains it. Hopefully it makes bad hosts go away, but I see one fallout being good hosts feeling they must break their own cancellation policies in order to provide full refunds to last-minute cancellers who can now blast them for an experience they never experienced.
Or am I off the mark?
If somebody leaves a negative review because they did not get a refund they were not entitled to that should be an automatic delete, we will see.
I had guests cancel two days ago and airbnb sent me (and them) an email for each of us to leave reviews.
The guests cancelled a day before they were to arrive so they never set foot on or even saw my property.
The guests LOST around $80 because they cancelled too late to get a refund.
What review would they possibly leave me other than... "Bad host kept all my money and didn't give any refund when I cancelled" and 1 stars all through the rview?! They have no other possible way to review my airbnb because they never came here. That would instantly KILL MY SUPERHOST STATUS.
Lets say they do leave a bad review... if I don't leave a review at all, their bad review should not become public or count against my ratings... correct? Only when both parties leave a review do the reviews become public... right?
You have 14 days to review them whover has becomes public.
@Donald You are right. I am not sure there is any sure way to solve this issue. Guests can pretty much hold a review review hostage for a refund and a host can hold a refund hostage for a good review. What if the host does a full refund and AirBnB keeps their fee? what if the guest cancels at the last minute on a strict reservation that cannot be rebooked? False bad reviews will be rampant. On the other hand, a host can leave a false bad review for a guest who got an appropriate refund as punishment.
That has changed. After the 14 period passes any review that has been submitted is published...even if its only from one party
Not off the mark at all. This past weekend, a guest called at midnight after they should have checked in the prior day. Then failed to cancel with Airbnb, so we lost three precious weekend rental days. Then they demanded a full refund. The threat of a bad review and strong suggestion from AirBnb mediator that we give a full refund was clearly unfair to the host.
Thanks for the info @David. I don't like this new change, because as others have pointed out, someone who cancels and never sets foot on your property should not be able to review. Maybe they will figure out how to set it so only those who actually are on the property can review. As a host, it leaves me feeling a little insecure. I don't have many cancellations, and am usually a little disappointed when I get one, but this adds a whole new level to the process.
Informative post @David.
"Gordon Ashworth, CMA project director, ...if someone CUT SHORT their stay, it was too hard for them to leave a review under Airbnb’s existing reviews system and so we are pleased that Airbnb engaged constructively with us and committed to making the necessary changes.”
Makes total sense. The language ~"on the day of their stay"~ part is the potential tricky problem, IF it does not say explicitly 'upon and after actual arrival'. Otherwise, the question will remain, if a guest has NOT actually set foot on the premises, then what are they actually reviewing if allowed to do so?
@Fred Regarding not setting foot on a property. Guest: host asked for more money than posted, host was rude or inapropriate prior to arrival, host states they may stay in whole house rental, host changes availability last minute, host sends additional house rules after booking (this happened to us and the new rules were unacceptable). All of these issues have been on the forum recently and shopping guests should know this before booking. Host: Guest misrepresents occupants, guest is overdemanding...
There are many cases that cancel prior to arrival may be good to know. Of course this all is going to be difficult for AirBnb to police.
Yes, you do bring up a plausible beneficial scenario when a review by a guest that didn't actually stay in which their ~opinion~ may be of help to others guests. I would still prevent both parties to not review either way, since the whole situation is so prone to gaming the Airbnb system, by either party by outright lying to make their case. I think Airbnb already has a methodology to deal with this. The situation is just too chancy for fairness to prevail, left strictly to vested parties. All methologies must account for the dark side of human nature, granted the exception, but humans have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, they can justify just about anything when/if they 'feel they need' to. It is that side of human nature that I always keep my 'evil' right eye on, just in case. ;)