CANBERRA, Australia: As part of its efforts to widen the monitoring of global technology platforms, Australia's antitrust regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has accused Airbnb of misleading Australian users into paying more than advertised when renting vacation accommodations.
In its lawsuit filed this week, the ACCC said the San Francisco-based tech giant advertised and charged room rates in U.S. dollars from 2018 to 2021 without indicating the much higher actual prices in Australian dollars.
Airbnb refused to refund users who complained about being misled, and also refused to refund currency conversion fees, the ACCC said in its filing, adding that the company benefitted unfairly over competitors because the "false and misleadingly low prices conveyed made the accommodation available on the platform appear to be more attractive."
In an emailed statement, Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb's country manager for Australia and New Zealand, said, "While a fraction of a percentage of guests are believed to have been impacted, we will compensate affected guests."
The company has since updated its platform, so national currencies are "clearly displayed" from the first page for Australian guests, she added.
The lawsuit means Airbnb has now joined the ACCC's list of several high-profile targets, as part of the regulator's efforts to rein in the power of big technology firms, including Facebook and Google, in terms of content licensing fees.
The ACCC is also conducting a review of Amazon.com and other online retailers, which could recommend changes to the sector.