Price misrepresentation set to cost Airbnb $30 million after ACCC probe

Airbnb Ireland may pay as much as $30 million in penalties and compensation after the company admitted it misled customers about the currency of the prices on its accommodation booking platform.

The Federal Court has ordered Airbnb to pay $15 million in penalties after the company admitted it falsely claimed prices on its booking site were in Australian dollars when they were in US dollars, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The misleading conduct affected about 70000 customers between January 2018 and August 2021. Airbnb already rectified the currency on its platform, with US prices denoted as USD, effective August 31, 2021.

“Consumers were misled about the price of accommodation, reasonably assuming the price referred to Australian dollars given they were on Airbnb’s Australian website, searching for accommodation in Australia and seeing a dollar sign,” said ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

“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.”

Meanwhile, in a court-enforceable undertaking, Airbnb said it will pay $15 million in compensation to about 63,000 of the over 70,000 bookings it received at the time.

The compensation will cover the difference between the price the customer paid and the price the customer expected in AUD, as well as any additional foreign currency transaction fees incurred.

The average compensation is estimated to be about $230 per customer.

Customers who lodged a claim after receiving an initial communication from Airbnb are expected to receive another notice with information about the redress scheme by February 5.

Deloitte Australia has been assigned to administer the compensation claims on behalf of Airbnb. The ACCC is warning the public to beware of scammers pretending to be Airbnb or Deloitte representatives.

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