08/06/2022 - 12:31

ACCC sues Airbnb over 'misleading' prices

08/06/2022 - 12:31

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The national competition regulatory body is taking short-stay accommodation service Airbnb to court, claiming prices shown on its website misled Australian users.

ACCC sues Airbnb over 'misleading' prices
The ACCC lodged an application in the federal court against Airbnb Inc. Photo: Scott Lewis

The national competition regulatory body is taking short-stay accommodation service Airbnb to court, claiming prices shown on its website misled Australian users.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission lodged an application in the federal court’s Victorian registry against Airbnb Inc and Airbnb Ireland UC yesterday.

The ACCC alleges Airbnb misled consumers into believing prices for Australian accommodation were listed in AUD when many consumer prices were in US dollars between January 2018 and August 2021.

According to the federal court application, the ACCC claims the "total" price shown in the listings were displayed without any indication of the currency with the only reference to USD appearing in small font in the footer of the website and mobile site.

The ACCC claims thousands of consumers compained to Airbnb about being charged more than the displayed price, further alleging Airbnb engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by telling many of the users it had displayed prices in US dollars because the user selected this currency.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, compensation orders for affected users and costs.

According to a statement released by the ACCC, the average Australian to US dollar exchange rate was about $0.72 USD between January 2018 and August 2021.

“At this rate, an Australian consumer who thought they were paying $500 for their accommodation booking would have actually paid almost $700 AUD, before any foreign currency conversion fees,” the statement said.

Commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said by taking this action, the ACCC was stating clearly that digital platforms need to ensure accuracy of their statements.

“We allege that Airbnb’s misleading conduct meant that consumers were deprived of the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether, and at what price, to book their holiday accommodation on the Airbnb platform,” she said.

“In addition to paying higher prices than expected, some consumers who were charged in US dollars also found themselves further out of pocket through currency conversion fees charged by their credit card provider.

Airbnb did not compensate many consumers who complained about this conduct, and so we will be arguing that the court should order Airbnb to compensate people who were misled about the price of their accommodation.

“Despite thousands of consumers complaining to Airbnb about the way prices were displayed, Airbnb didn’t amend its booking platform until after the ACCC raised the issue.”

 

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