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Who here has ever been a victim of an AirBnB scam?

The accommodation app has come under fire for leaving its users vulnerable to unscrupulous hosts who steal their money and put them up in awful apartments.

Since it was set up in 2007, AirBnB has matched 500 million guests with homes away from home all over the world. Its popularity is largely down to the fact that its properties are often cheaper than equivalent hotels and come with more homely amenities.

But the platform has been criticised for having vague rules and lax rule-enforcement which allows hosts and guests to get away with bad behaviour. VICE says it recently received over 1,000 complaints from people who had fallen victim to common AirBnB scams, such as double-booking the accommodation, charging extortionate repair or replacement fees, and badgering guests for five star reviews despite them experiencing less-than stellar stay.

AirBnB says it takes these sort of accusations seriously, has various policies in place to stop them happening, and will do its utmost to refund people’s money whenever their accomodation isn’t up to par. But it is clearly somewhat constrained by the fact that some of its disputes basically boil down to he-said she-said. When a host claims a guest lost a key and the guest swears they returned it to the requested location, who should be liable for the replacement fee? How far from pictures or expectations does a place have to be to entitle a unhappy - or potentially just picky - customer to a refund?

For some people, AirBnB’s predicament shows the limits of the so-called ‘sharing economy’. The individuals who operate on sites like AirBnB often do not have the resources, incentives or even legal requirements that big businesses do, and which make it more likely that a customer’s experience will be a positive one. Established hotels usually host far more guests than the average AirBnBer and are more likely to be severely financially damaged from any scandals. That means they’re more likely to do things like write off guest damage as a cost of doing business or take disciplinary action against staff that are rude or threatening to guests.

Read our explainer on: consumption.

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