Airbnb Confesses to Misleading Australian Users with Currency Deception, Charging in US Dollars Instead of Local Currency
An Australian court has mandated Airbnb to pay a hefty fine of 15 million Australian dollars ($10 million) for misleading users by charging in U.S. dollars instead of the local currency. The accommodation rental giant acknowledged making false representations between January 2018 and August 2021, displaying prices in Australian dollars on its platform when, in reality, about 63,000 customers were billed in U.S. dollars.
Federal Court Justice Brendan McElwaine imposed the fine for violating Australian consumer law, along with additional prosecution costs of AU$400,000. Airbnb has committed to compensating eligible customers up to AU$15 million as part of the resolution.
Airbnb had previously pledged to the court that it would allocate up to AU$15 million for compensating eligible customers. According to Wheeldon, the company remains dedicated to ensuring price transparency and is actively working to enhance systems for the benefit of both guests and hosts in their travel experiences.
The legal action against Airbnb was initiated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the consumer law watchdog. Gina Cass-Gottlieb, the commission’s chair, emphasized that consumers were deceived about accommodation prices, assuming they were in Australian dollars while browsing Airbnb’s Australian website. Cass-Gottlieb stated that the case was pursued to send a robust message to major digital platforms, such as Airbnb, underscoring the imperative need to adhere to the Australian Consumer Law and refrain from misleading consumers.
Over a span of more than three years, approximately 2,000 Australian customers filed complaints with Airbnb. The company, headquartered in San Francisco, had attributed the discrepancy to customers choosing prices in U.S. dollars, including instances where consumers had not made such a selection. It’s noteworthy that the legal proceedings were directed at Airbnb Ireland UC, the Dublin-based European subsidiary responsible for operating the Airbnb platform for Australian users.