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Airbnb cancellation policy leaves some dissatisfied

| May 28, 2020 1:00 AM

The fallout from COVID-19 continues to affect a multitude of businesses, and Airbnb isn’t immune.

Airbnb issued a revised cancellation policy titled “extenuating circumstances policy” on its website. Even though Airbnb claims the new policy is intended to protect communities and provide peace of mind, there have been many reported incidents of reservation holders left dissatisfied.

Some have complained about trying to cancel reservations that were within the terms of the policy only to have yet to receive complete refunds or they have received a partial refund in the form of a travel coupon.

Airbnb states that a reservation made prior to March 14, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, for reservation dates between March 14 and June 30 could be canceled under the new policy. However, the policy also states, “in order to cancel under the revised policy you will be required to attest to the facts of and/or provide supporting documentation for your extenuating circumstance.”

This documentation loophole is one reason reservation holders have been unable to get refunds. The other reason many have not been able to get refunds is the host has ignored or denied the refund request in spite of the new policy. And for the refunds that were in the form of a travel coupon, those have their own restrictions, such as if not used in full then the remaining balance is lost since the coupon is good for a single use.

The lesson here is that the world has changed. This has brought out a major problem with vacation rentals. The idea of staying in a non-traditional place may sound great for a large group or someone wanting a truly unique experience but it appears that the support and guarantees are not there as fully as one would receive from a more traditional lodging arrangement. Please read your contract carefully to make sure you understand the cancellation policy.

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TRACKING AMAZON: With the increase of online ordering of products and goods, scammers are targeting people with warnings about fraudulent account activity on their account or warning that orders are going to a different address.

The ruse is designed to get the victim to give up their personal information. The caller pretends to be an Amazon employee calling because it “appears” that someone is trying to place an order on the customer’s account and they are calling to verify that the order is authentic. Often they claim that the order is being sent to a different address and need the customer to verify their mailing address.

The scammer is intent on keeping the target on the line long enough to raise the level of concern that someone has accessed their account to a point that their defenses go down and they provide the caller with their account number, mailing address and payment information.

If you are a frequent shopper of Amazon, track your orders by logging into your Amazon.com account directly. Amazon does have a decent tracking system so there’s no reason that an actual Amazon employee would be calling you unsolicited.

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IRA DISTRIBUTION UPDATE: Another temporary source of funds one can access now, thanks to the CARES (Corona Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, is IRA accounts. The act allows a taxpayer to withdraw up to $100,000, anytime up until Dec. 31, for up to three years without the usual 10% penalty for those under 59 and a half years old.

The CARES Act specifies who is eligible: any individual who is diagnosed with COVID-19, whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19, or who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid-off, had hours cut, or other factors determined by the Secretary of the Treasury during the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, just about anyone could make a case for the distribution.

According to a local tax adviser, any distributions taken under this provision must be repaid within three years to remain income-tax free. This provision also applies to other retirement plans but what makes it different is that IRAs have not been accessible previously unless as a fully taxable distribution, subject to both income tax and penalties.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.