Airbnb guest charged service fee after host issues refund during COVID-19

A B.C. woman says she was shocked when Airbnb charged her a service fee despite the fact her host waived the cancellation policy and offered a full refund due to the global pandemic.

“People are helping people out doing the right thing. It just doesn’t feel like the right thing. It feels pretty unkind,” said Linda Murray.

For the past 25 years, the Murray and her husband have owned a small kiosk at Vancouver’s Canada Place selling binoculars to cruise ship passengers.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the couple has had no income, forcing them to put their travel plans on hold for the foreseeable future.

“I really don’t know what the future holds for our business so it’s a real blow to be charged that amount of money,” said Murray.

Back in January, Murray had booked a long term stay at a condo in Mexico through Airbnb for the following winter.

Airbnb guests who reserve a long-term stay must pay for the first month upfront at the time of booking.  Murray says she paid $4,774.29.

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On its website, Airbnb says the payment is held until 24 hours after check-in, when it is then transferred to the host.

Airbnb’s cancellation policy for long-term stays states that if the guest cancels the reservation before the start date, the first month of the reservation is paid to the host in full and not refunded to the guest.

More than 48 hours after booking, guests can cancel before check-in and get a full refund, minus the first 30 days and the service fee.

However, due to COVID-19, Murray says the host made an exception and waved the cancellation policy — agreeing to issue Murray a full refund.

“I was very relieved and grateful,” said Murray.

Still, Murray says Airbnb charged her credit card a C$780.75 service fee. Murray says she reached out to Airbnb several times, but the company refused to budge. In one of her email exchanges with Airbnb, Murray was told:

“Please be advised that your host doesn’t have access to refund the service fee and service fees are non-refundable, especially if the reservation is not covered by our extenuating circumstance policy. In your case, since the dates you booked are not covered by our said policy, then it will remain non-refundable.”

Murray came to Consumer Matters for help.

“They say that’s their policy and I couldn’t reason with them any other way. I didn’t know what to do,” said Murray.

After Global BC reached out, Murray received a refund for the service fee of C$780.75 the next day.

“Normally, our guest service fees are refunded only if you cancel within 48 hours of booking,” said a member of Airbnb’s supervisory team wrote to Murray.

“We are happy to offer you a one time courtesy and issue you a refund of your guest fees.”

You can find out more about Airbnb’s service fees here.

Murray says she’s just happy the ordeal is over.


“Thanks to you Anne I got my money back and I’m very pleased,“ she said.

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