Airbnb fined $15m for misleading pricing

Airbnb has been fined $15 million for misleading customers about the currency of prices on its accommodation platform.

The Ireland-based company admitted breaching ss 18 and 29 of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by making false or misleading representations to Australian users for more than three years, that prices for Australian accommodation were in Australian dollars, when for about 70,000 consumers the prices were in US dollars.

Airbnb acknowledged that between January 2018 and August 2021 prices were displayed for Australian accommodation on its website with a dollar sign without an indication of whether the price was in Australian or US dollars.

The company will offer up to $15 million in compensation to affected customers as part of an undertaking to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which began legal action in the Federal Court in June last year.

“By paying in US dollars, these consumers were charged more than they expected to pay, and were deprived of a chance to make an informed decision about whether to make the booking because of this misleading conduct regarding the price,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We took this case to send a strong signal to large digital platforms like Airbnb that they must comply with the Australian Consumer Law and not mislead consumers.”

The Court today also ordered Airbnb to pay part of the ACCC’s costs, and establish and maintain an ACL compliance program.

The company received more than 2000 complaints from Australian consumers raising concerns about being charged in US dollars during the relevant period. Some consumers also paid additional bank currency conversion fees.

From 31 August 2021, prices in US dollars on the platform were clearly denoted through the use of the abbreviation “USD”.

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