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TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Airbnb banned me because I used to live in Russia. But it's complicated.

When Airbnb bans Svitlana Marchenko from the site, it won't tell her why. Could it have something to do with her residence? The answer is complicated.

Airbnb has suspended my account, but it won't tell me why. Now it won't even respond to me.

I've used Airbnb frequently. The last time I rented a room in a hostel in Romania was in August when I left Ukraine. Everything went well, including the payment.

In November, I again wanted to rent an apartment through Airbnb, but I could not log into my account. First, I saw a message that asked me for a government-issued ID. And after two days, I received a message that said Airbnb was deleting my account and that I could not create a new one. "Further questions on this appeal will not be considered," the message said.

Airbnb would not tell me why it deleted my account but suggested one reason could be that the city I lived in, Mariupol, was under Russian occupation. But here's the thing: I got out of Mariupol when they opened the green corridor last year. I was in Ukraine until the end of July, and I now live in Romania. The government has issued me temporary protection as a refugee.

I'd like to know why Airbnb froze my account. I'd also like to get my account unblocked. I enjoyed using the platform. I don't understand what I did wrong. Can you help me?

Svitlana Marchenko, Donetsk, Ukraine

Airbnb announced last year that it would stop accepting bookings in Russia, and you are not the first reader to get stuck with an undeserved ban. A few months ago, another reader had a similar problem. His phone number had a Russian country code even though he lived in Ukraine. Airbnb banned him without explanation. I managed to get that ban reversed.

Of course, Airbnb has the right to do business with anyone it wants -- or doesn't want. But it should be consistent in applying its policy. In your case, a person Airbnb is trying to protect with its policy -- a refugee from the war in Ukraine -- is getting punished. That's not right.

I see that you kept a written record of your correspondence with Airbnb. Good work. You might have forwarded that to one of the Airbnb executives I list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. Sometimes a brief, polite email will reopen your case and lead to a quick resolution.

Airbnb owed you a full explanation about how you got banned. But of course, you'll never get one, even if I ask on your behalf. Airbnb refuses to talk about who gets banned and who doesn't. The company has assured me that it is trying to make the process more transparent and to add a way to appeal an account suspension. I have yet to see evidence of that.

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. A representative contacted you and verified your current address in Romania, and a few days later, Airbnb reactivated your account. Why? It won't say.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him on his site.

© 2023 Christopher Elliott

 

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