Airbnb is being taken to court for allegedly suggesting prices were in Australian dollars, when they were actually displaying US dollar prices.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleges that, between at least January 2018 and August 2021, Airbnb made false or misleading representations to thousands of Australian consumers by displaying prices on its website or mobile app for Australian accommodation using only a dollar sign ($), without making it clear that those prices were in US dollars.

On some occasions, Airbnb referred to the price as ‘USD’ in small font on the last page of the booking process, but this only happened after the platform had displayed numerous dollar (‘$’) amounts on earlier pages, without nearby reference to US dollars, and after the consumer had clicked to ‘reserve’ their accommodation.  

The ACCC says thousands of Australian consumers complained to Airbnb about being charged more than the displayed price, but Airbnb allegedly engaged in further misleading or deceptive conduct by telling many of them that it had displayed prices in US dollars because the user had selected this currency, when this was often not the case.

“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,” says ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

“In addition to paying higher prices than expected, some consumers who were charged in US dollars also found themselves further out of pocket through currency conversion fees charged by their credit card provider.

“Airbnb did not compensate many consumers who complained about this conduct, and so we will be arguing that the court should order Airbnb to compensate people who were misled about the price of their accommodation.

“Despite thousands of consumers complaining to Airbnb about the way prices were displayed, Airbnb didn’t amend its booking platform until after the ACCC raised the issue,” she said. 

The ACCC is taking Airbnb to Federal Court, seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, orders for the compensation for affected consumers, costs, and other orders.

The ACCC wants any consumers who experienced problems with currencies displayed on its booking platform between January 2018 and August 2021, or explanations given to them by Airbnb about the prices they were charged, to contact it via this form.