Source: Reuters
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  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) takes Airbnb to court, accusing the accommodation-sharing company of misleading its users into paying more than advertised for their stays
  • In a court filing, the ACCC accuses the San Francisco-based business of advertising and charging room rates in US dollars without showing the figures in Australian dollars from 2018 to 2021
  • Further, the ACCC says Airbnb refused to refund users who complained about being misled, claiming the users had chosen to view rates in US dollars
  • Airbnb also refused to refund currency conversion fees, claiming they were banks’ responsibility
  • The ACCC says that it is seeking an unspecified fine and court orders for Airbnb to compensate affected customers

Australia’s competition watchdog has taken accommodation-sharing giant Airbnb to court, accusing the company of misleading its users into paying more than advertised for their stays.

In a court filing, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accused the San Francisco-based giant of advertising and charging room rates in US dollars without showing the figures in Australian dollars from 2018 to 2021.

According to the ACCC, Airbnb refused to refund users who complained about being misled, citing the users had chosen to view rates in US dollars.

The ACCC said in a media statement while on some occasions Airbnb referred to the price as ‘USD’ in small font on the last page of the booking process, this was only once the customer had clicked to reserve their accommodation — after the platform had already displayed several dollar amounts on earlier pages without referencing the currency.

“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,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

Airbnb also allegedly refused to refund currency conversion fees charged by customers’ credit card providers, claiming this was the bank’s responsibility.

Between January 2018 and August 2021, the average Australian dollar to US dollar exchange rate was about $0.72 USD.

At this rate, an Australian user looking to book accommodation would think they were paying A$500 for their accommodation booking but would have actually paid almost A$700, before any foreign currency conversion fees.

The ACCC said that it was seeking an unspecified fine and court orders for Airbnb to compensate affected customers as it alleged thousands of people had complained to the accommodation-sharing website about the difference in advertised prices and amounts charged.

So far, Airbnb has not made an official statement or comment about the allegation.

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