NEW YORK – Airbnb has come under congressional scrutiny, with a group of U.S. lawmakers demanding the company respond to concerns over the proliferation of limited liability corporations listing units on the homesharing platform and "deceptive and misleading listings."
In a letter sent to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on Nov. 21, several members of Congress also voiced concern over "the company's failure to authenticate host identities in a way that would prevent bad actors from continuing to rent" through the platform.
The letter, which was signed by Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Robin Kelly (D-IL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO) and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), requests a briefing with Airbnb.
The lawmakers said they will ask Airbnb to clarify its policies and practices during the briefing. They plan to ask the company how it defines a "host," how it currently vets its hosts, how Airbnb plans to enforce policy violations, how the company will verify that units meet basic safety protocols and whether the company’s efforts to categorise "high-risk reservations" will consider age, race, gender or other personal traits, among other inquiries.
Airbnb's security and support policies have recently come under fire in the media, after five people were killed at an unauthorised party at an Airbnb rental on Halloween. Also, in late October, Vice published a scathing article about Airbnb on its website, exposing the company’s inadequate response to fraudulent listings.
In response, Airbnb unveiled a battery of policy changes in early November. They include a pledge to verify all 7 million Airbnb listings by Dec. 15, 2020; a new guarantee to rebook or refund guests if a listing does not meet accuracy standards; a 24/7 neighbor hotline for customer support; and renewed efforts to screen "high-risk" reservations.