Does Increased Dependency on Online Marketplace Apps Also Increase Consumer Vulnerability?

Airbnb, a popular online marketplace offering a wide range of accommodations has recently made headlines for difficulties faced by hosts dealing with renters. Despite the site’s promises of an easy and trusting transaction for users, stories of wrecked homes and renter-host clashes have been hitting the headlines at higher rates. The most recent involving a woman who rented her Palm Springs condo to a man for over 30 days, and is now faced with a legal battle in attempts to evict the man from her home.

According to California state law, once a person rents a property for 30 days, he or she is considered a tenant and therefore has tenant rights. The host, Cory Tschogl, unaware of the law, is now forced to conduct an eviction process for which the time and legal fees are her own burden. The story has provoked questions about the efficiency of Airbnb, as well as their ability to protect users when things go wrong.

Thousands of vacation rental owners are vulnerable, and they don’t know it. The public needs to know, lawmakers need to know, and sites like Airbnb need to know and improve upon their policies, procedures and protections,” Tschogl says.

The recent incidents associated with Airbnb also cause consumers to question the trust they place in online communities. A similar app, Uber, through which users can coordinate with registered drivers to transport them for a fee has faced recent scrutiny regarding the potential vulnerability of both drivers and passengers. One story recently published by Forbes Magazine on July 10 details the kidnapping and involvement in a high-speed chase of New York CEO in Washington, DC. While the passenger, Ryan Simonetti, maintains he will continue to use the car service, he voices concerns over Twitter regarding the screen process of drivers;

The question is what the vetting process is for drivers? As they get [bigger], how do you prevent stuff life that from happening? How do you screen crazy people out?”

While the new apps have brought more efficiency to the consumer’s daily life, it is apparent that the concept of online marketplace communities still requires development to adequately address the concerns of user vulnerability. Concerns will continue to grow as daily life become more dependent on the ease of such apps.

Read more here- “Airbnb Host: A Gust is Squatting in My Condo and I Can’t Get Him to Leave,” (Julie Bort, Business Insider)

Read more here- “UberTrip Turns Into High Speed Car Chase Across Washington DC,” (Gordon Kelly, Forbes)

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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.

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