Airbnb fined $10 million for charging Australian users in USD

Airbnb has been fined $10.1 million by an Australian court for misleading consumers about its pricing in the country. The court ruled that from 2018 to 2021, Airbnb did not clearly indicate that its listings were priced in US dollars, leading many users to assume they would be charged in Australian dollars. As a result, some users paid more for their accommodations than expected, and others faced additional fees from their banks for currency conversion. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) stated that approximately 70,000 consumers were affected, with 2,000 users lodging complaints with Airbnb during the period in question.

The issue was resolved on the Airbnb website in August 2021 when the company added the phrase "USD" next to its pricing. Airbnb's country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Susan Wheeldon, acknowledged the lack of clarity on the currency and stated that it was promptly rectified once brought to their attention. She emphasized that ensuring a positive travel experience for guests is Airbnb's top priority and apologized to those impacted by the pricing issue.

In addition to the penalties imposed by the court, Airbnb will also offer up to AU$15 million (around $10.1 million) in compensation to affected users. The compensation will cover the difference in currency exchange rates at the time of booking and any foreign currency exchange costs incurred by users. Each consumer will receive approximately AU$230 (around $156) as compensation, with the exact amount depending on their individual bookings. Airbnb plans to reach out to impacted consumers by February 5, 2024.

This is not the first legal matter that Airbnb has faced. In 2022, New York City implemented restrictions on short-term rentals, affecting nearly 40,000 listings in the city. It is worth noting that Axel Springer, the parent company of Insider Inc., is an investor in Airbnb.

Overall, the Australian court's ruling against Airbnb highlights the importance of transparent pricing practices and consumer protection. The company has taken steps to rectify the issue and is offering compensation to affected users.


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