Ghislain rented accommodation on Airbnb from October 30 to November 3 for around 200 euros. When general confinement is declared, he doesn’t have many options: the deadline for being reimbursed has passed, he decides to contact Airbnb to find out if they trigger their ” force majeure policy As during the first confinement. In which case, he would receive a full refund. On the phone, on Facebook and by email, the company tells him that “ nothing is planned in his case “And that it will not be refunded. Very upset against Airbnb, Ghislain does not let go. He contacts the consumer protection association UFC-Que Choisir, rereads the laws, and threatens the company. One of the superiors finally gave in. In less than 24 hours, he receives the entire amount spent on his account. ” I won », He rejoices.
“Airbnb reimbursement collective”
Ghislain’s story is not an isolated case. This is one of the many stories shared by the private Facebook group ” Airbnb reimbursement collective »Created Sunday November 1st by Claude Rouget. ” I told myself that I shouldn’t be the only one “Explains the creator of the group, who also found himself stuck with an Airbnb reservation on his hands,” the first of [sa] life “. Since then, a hundred people have joined him. ” The idea is to talk to each other, to advise and support each other in the face of Airbnb’s responses or silences », Explains Claude, still astonished by the success of the page. ” If there are many of us, it’s easier. “
It was exactly in this spirit that Ghislain shared all the stages of his negotiation with Airbnb, supported by numerous screenshots. ” If that can make a difference for others … », He believes. On the advice of the UFC-What to choose, he put “ Airbnb facing its contradictions “. In its general conditions of sale, which have not changed since March, the platform indicates that “ cancellations without penalties only apply to cases of force majeure occurring before the official arrival date shown on the reservation “. Nine months ago, the first lockdown was considered a ” force majeure “, The second should logically be too. ” Even if it is an American company, they must at least follow their own rules “, Analyzes the consumer protection association.
In the event of force majeure, the contracts no longer hold
It adds to these internal contradictions the French law. Thearticle 1218 of the Civil Code French protects consumers in the face of such situations: “ force majeure occurs in contractual matters when an event beyond the control of the debtor, which could not be reasonably foreseen at the time of the conclusion of the contract and whose effects cannot be avoided by appropriate measures, prevents the fulfillment of its obligation by the debtor. […] If the impediment is final, the contract is automatically terminated and the parties are released from their obligations. », Details the legislation. Clearly, if the contract cannot be respected by both parties for reasons beyond their control (the ban on travel decreed by the government on October 28 until December 1), the obligation to pay does not hold. more. Except that Airbnb is not a stakeholder, but a simple intermediary …
That’s why others didn’t get Ghislain’s chance. One of the members of the group, Marion, for example, is always faced with a dilemma: either she cancels on her own initiative and only recovers 50% of the amount of her reservation (around 100 euros), or she waits, taking the risk of lose everything (a little more than double). His situation is however very clearly a ” force majeure “: Her flight to Prague has been canceled and the Czech Republic, the country where she made her reservation, has been confined since October 23, prohibiting” all accommodation except business travel “, according to the France diplomacy website. ” Airbnb and the host don’t want to hear anything. They pass the buck », She laments.
” We want to help hosts and guests as much as possible to follow the rules and stay safe. […] On Airbnb, hosts set their own cancellation policies. The vast majority of them have policies allowing travelers to cancel without penalty. […] Our user support team is also available to assist travelers », Explains the company, which pleads non-responsible. Airbnb is ” neither a travel agency nor a real estate agency », Recalls the company’s communication department. The platform offers ” flexible refund policies », But the hosts decide.
Some travelers thus manage to find arrangements with understanding hosts. For lack of full refund, Alice * and her friends managed to negotiate: the owner finally agreed to reimburse them up to 70%. ” It’s always better than nothing », Considers the young woman.
Hello, the Quai d’Orsay?
Others are more virulent. Airbnb customs clearance does not convince them. The activist of the collective Paris vs Bnb, Vincent Aulnay, also part of the Facebook group “collective Airbnb reimbursement”, directly addressed the Secretary of State for Tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, on Twitter. When asked, the minister did not wish to follow up on our request.
– Vincent Aulnay (@vincent_aulnay) November 2, 2020
In its recovery plan announced last June, the government has provided an envelope of 18 billion euros to support the hotel sector, which includes ” short-term accommodation “. But the aid is intended for rental companies ” professionals »And not to individuals, the majority on Airbnb.
If the state puts its hand in its pocket, Airbnb says it is dry. Company CEO Brian Chesky said he expected to see his revenue cut in half in 2020 (roughly $ 2.2 billion). In 2019, Airbnb’s revenue was $ 4.8 billion. The force majeure policy would have something to do with it. The platform has created a $ 250 million fund to financially support the hosts. Since, the company even separated 25% of its workforce.
Airbnb, hosts, travelers, no one is happy with it. And the situation is not improving: the members of the Facebook group are more and more numerous, complaints are piling up in the Airbnb box, cancellations are raining and discontent is growing … Under these conditions, the The case-by-case management that Airbnb has adopted seems difficult to maintain.
* The first name has been changed.