By DAVID KOENIG
AP Business Writer
Fake listings have emerged as a major problem for Airbnb, threatening to scare off consumers and prompting the short-term rental service to use AI in an effort to crack down on fraudsters.
Airbnb says it has removed 59,000 fake listings and prevented another 157,000 from joining the platform this year.
Fake listings and high cleaning fees are among several issues that Airbnb said Wednesday that its users highlighted in a company survey. Others included high cleaning fees and a desire for lower prices.
The San Francisco company said more than 260,000 listings have lowered or removed cleaning fees this year, since it gave consumers the means to sort listings in order of all-in pricing.
Airbnb says the change in how prices are displayed discourages hosts from touting low prices but piling on extra fees. However, only about one-third of Airbnb renters are using it.
“We got a lot of feedback that Airbnb is not as affordable as it used to be,” CEO Brian Chesky said in an interview. The pricing changes are starting work, he said, and more measures are in the works.
One of those is “seasonal dynamic pricing” — technology that would help hosts adjust prices more often, like airlines and hotels do. Chesky said that will prod hosts into cutting prices during the off-season, but it could also help them raise peak prices.
Airbnb also said that later this year it will begin verifying all listings in its top five markets including the United States and the United Kingdom to combat an outbreak of fakes.
Fraudulent listings create refunds and rebooking costs for Airbnb, “but the biggest risk is to our reputation,” Chesky said. ”If you can’t trust when you book an Airbnb that it’s real and you’re going to like it, then you’re going to stay in a hotel.”
The company plans to use AI to help it verify listings in those top five countries.
It will have hosts go inside the property and open the Airbnb app. GPS will verify they are at the correct address, and AI will be used to compare live photos with pictures that the host uses on the listing.
Properties in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Australia that pass the test will get a “verified” icon on their listings starting in February. The company said it will verify listings in 30 more countries starting late next year.