How did I end up banned from Airbnb?!

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Christopher Elliott

Anthony Klockenbrink is banned from Airbnb. But the company won’t tell him why, or how to get his account back. Now what?

Question

Airbnb has deactivated our account for no apparent reason. We have only used Airbnb three times over the last three years. Each rental worked out great. Our last rental was in the summer of 2017.

We have attempted to book a rental in the last three weeks. But we were stopped halfway through the booking process. After several calls and emails to Airbnb, we received an email 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 that “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?
Anthony Klockenbrink, Princeton, N.J.

Answer

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 email you received is a standard termination notice. But 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.”

Banned from Airbnb in error

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 email from Airbnb, warning me that I’d gotten a bad review.

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Transparency is good for everyone, so it’s disappointing when a company like Airbnb acts like this. 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 email addresses of Airbnb’s customer service managers on our site.

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. It reviewed your account and found that your suspension happened “during our routine system check-up.” Your banishment was an error. You’re now back on Airbnb.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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