The Australian antitrust authority has filed a case against Airbnb Inc., accusing the accommodation-sharing website of deceiving consumers into paying more for their stays than was advertised, as part of a broader investigation into global digital platforms.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) stated in a court file made public on Wednesday that from 2018 to 2021, the San Francisco-based internet giant advertised and charged accommodation prices in US dollars without mentioning the substantially higher values in Australian dollars.
According to the ACCC, Airbnb declined to compensate users who complained about being deceived, claiming that they had selected to view rates in US dollars even though they had not.
Airbnb also refused to reimburse currency conversion expenses, arguing that the banks were to blame, according to the New York Times.
Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment.
Airbnb joins a long list of high-profile targets of a regulator intent on limiting the dominance of large technology companies, according to the lawsuit.
Its measures resulted in Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google paying content licensing payments to media outlets last year.
It is now reviewing Amazon.com Inc and other internet retailers and may make recommendations for reforms to the industry.
Users “were deprived of the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether and at what price to book accommodation.” according to the ACCC’s case.
The regulator stated they “suffered further harm in the form of price difference costs and, in at least some cases, transaction fee costs,” but did not provide cash figures.
The ACCC claimed that Airbnb had an unfair advantage over competitors because the “false and misleadingly low prices conveyed made the accommodation available on the platform appear to be more attractive.”
The ACCC has said that it will pursue an undetermined fine from Airbnb as well as court orders requiring the company to reimburse affected customers.
Thousands of individuals had reported to Airbnb about the disparity between listed costs and amounts charged, according to a statement.
During the time covered by the lawsuit, the Australian dollar bought an average of 72 US cents, implying that a client renting housing for $500 would really pay about A$700 plus foreign exchange expenses, according to the regulator.
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