(Reuters) -The Australian Federal Court has ordered Airbnb to pay A$15 million ($10.1 million) in penalties and up to A$15 million in compensation after the vacation rental firm admitted that it misled consumers on accommodation pricing, the country’s competition regulator said on Wednesday.
Between January 2018 and August 2021, Airbnb Ireland, which operates in Australia, admitted that it misled consumers by displaying prices using only the ‘$’ sign, without clarifying that the prices were in U.S. dollars and not in the local currency, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement.
“By paying in U.S. dollars, these consumers were charged more than they expected, and were deprived of a chance to make an informed decision about whether to make the booking because of this misleading conduct,” said ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.
Airbnb has worked constructively with the ACCC, said Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb’s country manager for Australia and New Zealand, while clarifying that the final payment amount displayed the applicable currency code including in the U.S. dollar at a point when guests confirmed they wanted to proceed.
“While only a very small percentage of Australian guests are believed to have been impacted, we are disappointed that this happened. Airbnb would like to apologise to those guests,” said Wheeldon.
Airbnb, which operates an online marketplace for homestays, received more than 2,000 complaints from Australian customers over being charged in U.S. dollars during this period.
The ACCC in June 2022 initiated proceedings against the firm and its Irish unit, alleging that they made misleading representations to consumers about the currency for Australian accommodation bookings.
($1 = 1.4804 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Rishav Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Additional Reporting by Shivangi Lahiri; Editing by Varun H K and Subhranshu Sahu)