I’ve booked several holidays both in the U.K. and abroad using Airbnb and, until now, have only ever had good experiences. Last year I booked accommodation through Airbnb for a week in Tobago in April, which I subsequently cancelled due to our flights being cancelled due to Coronavirus. Airbnb offered a credit or a refund. I chose the credit (£255.24), because I felt this would be better to support the industry and I could use it for any further booking.
On Aug. 12 I booked a holiday cottage in the U.K. for Sept. 14-18 using my credit. The booking went through at 8:41 PM. At 10:30 PM I noticed an email (sent at 9:15 PM) requesting proof of ID within 12 hours of booking, or the booking would be cancelled. There was no way I could organize this overnight – they required a copy of my passport or driving license, together with a selfie. In any case, I was not willing to hand over this personal information to Airbnb.
At 2:15 AM they sent another email stating that, should I not provide this by 8:41 AM, the booking would be cancelled. At 8:42 AM I received an email stating that the booking had been cancelled. They also stated that I would not be able to use my credit for a further booking unless I provided government ID. There was nothing on the listing, nor on any other Airbnb listing to state that this was a requirement.
I have also received further messages from Airbnb requesting that I verify my ID before making further bookings. This meant I still had the credit, but was unable to use it. I therefore asked for a cash refund of the credit, which Airbnb have refused to give. Their argument is that since I opted for a credit, conditions have changed making it impossible for me to use, without handing over my passport or driving license for them to keep on file.
Had this been a requirement with the original booking, I would not have gone ahead. If this had been made clear when I was offered a credit or refund, I’d have taken the refund. After escalating the issue, I have now been told by Airbnb that it was the host who demanded this ID. But I messaged her when the booking was cancelled and she said this was not the case. She has never made ID a requirement when booking.
When I put this to Airbnb, this was their reply:
“In this case, the host selected it, and it is clear enough, but perhaps she didn’t pay attention. Situations like this can occur.”
I put this to the host and she was shocked. She kindly sent me a screenshot proving that she had not set this requirement. When I put this to Airbnb, their reply was:
“In this case, she probably edited the settings of the property.”
The owner’s response was: “What? That’s ridiculous. I don’t think I have ever amended those settings. Surely they could show you evidence of when I amended those settings.”
Back to Airbnb to express how shocked I was at their attitude towards one of their hosts – accusing her of incompetence and/or dishonesty. From my dealings with her, I feel that she is being open and honest and I believe her.
“Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective. After gathering and carefully reviewing all related documentation, we decided not to issue cash refund instead of travel credit because it would be against our policies. You were informed about the option you have, it was your decision to select the travel credit. We consider this decision final.”
I feel that I am owed a cash refund, because Airbnb’s ID requirement has been made since my original booking and since I opted for credit. I am not prepared to hand over my passport or driver’s license details as they keep them on file. Therefore, I cannot use this credit, which I would otherwise have been happy to do.
I do not consider their decision to be final as the rule of law outweighs their policy – it was they who cancelled the booking I tried to use my credit for. They did seem to change their mind about their policy and suggest the onus was on the host, but previous correspondence seems to suggest that this is a requirement for all bookings.
I have managed to book privately with the host, who does not require me to bring my passport, or show her my driving license (which I would have been willing to do – I just don’t want details kept on file). But it means that I have not been able to use my credit. If I could book through Airbnb without handing over my passport or driving license, I would happily do so and use my credit – but this does not seem possible.
I have copies of correspondence. I think, judging by the time zone, that their correspondence is coming from the U.S., or somewhere outside the U.K.