Airbnb is revising its terms of service, and its rollout is another example of how a website can provide notice of revised terms to users. While Airbnb’s new terms already are effective for new users, the rollout started more than a month before the new terms will be effective for existing users. Airbnb sent an email regarding its revised terms of service, with a bunch of links to the different terms and a general explanation. When the terms become effective, the site will ask existing users to confirm their agreement to the new terms.
The new terms of service seem to be primarily concerned with Airbnb’s delivery of services in China, use of a Resolution Center, and a new definition for the term “booking,” which seems overdue for someone in Airbnb’s business.
The revised terms of service may give some insight into issues that have been affecting Airbnb’s hosts. For example, when informing guests that they are responsible for leaving an accommodation in a certain condition, the revised terms clarify that the accommodation includes any personal or other property located inside the accommodation. Were guests able to avoid liability for damaged furniture and artwork under the existing terms? Also, the revised terms slightly broaden an already broad disclaimer of warranties to refer to “satisfactory quality,” which may signal that enough customers have complained about quality for Airbnb to specifically reference it in the disclaimer.
Airbnb indicates that both the existing and revised terms of service will be on Airbnb’s site for 30 days after the revised terms become effective. This is nice so users do not have to try to track down the old terms (at least for 30 days), but it would be even nicer if Airbnb would provide users with a redline comparing the old terms of service with the revised terms. With a redline, users would be able to see exactly what has changed. Using redlines as a form of disclosure probably will not be widely adopted because terms of service generally are not revised to benefit the user, and a site will not want to draw attention to that. For Airbnb’s revised terms, the revisions are pretty noncontroversial, so a redline would not have caused a stir. In fact, a redline would have helped Airbnb, too, because a redline would have shown that the examples used in the “Rounding Off” section were inexplicably deleted, leaving incomplete examples.
Bob Muraski is a business attorney based in Bellingham, Washington.