Tens of thousands of Australian Airbnb customers who were charged in US dollars instead of Australian dollars up to six years ago have received text messages to get a refund.
But if you think you are eligible for compensation and have not been contacted, now is the time to contact Airbnb.
In December, the Federal Court ordered Airbnb to pay $15 million in penalties after it was found to have made false or misleading representations to Australian users between January 1, 2018 and August 30, 2021.
Prices had been displayed for Aussie accommodation with a dollar sign, but with no indication of whether the price was in Australian or US dollars. Customers were left unaware that prices were in USD until they reached the checkout page.
“Consumers were misled about the price of accommodation, reasonably assuming the price referred to Australian dollars given they were on Airbnb’s Australian website, searching for accommodation in Australia and seeing a dollar sign,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.
In addition to the $15 million fine, Airbnb had until Monday, February 5 to offer compensation to about 63,000 affected people who had over 70,000 bookings billed in US dollars.
Those customers have been sent text messages and emails to apply for a refund through a dedicated claims portal.
One Aussie traveller told news.com.au they were surprised to receive a text on Monday saying they could be eligible for a partial refund of $500 for a booking made back in July 2021.
He said at the time of the booking he had assumed it was his mistake.
“The listed price of the accommodation was affordable upon first glance, but once the first payment was deducted from my account, I knew something was wrong,” he said.
“To make matters worse, this was a group trip, which forced me to make a decision to either cover the excess or ask my mates to cough a few extra hundred dollars for the trip. Needless to say, there were a few disgruntled guests out of pocket.”
If you think you are eligible for compensation and have not been contacted, ACCC said you should contact Airbnb.
ACCC said the average compensation payment was expected to be about $230 per consumer.
The compensation Airbnb will provide will be the difference between the price the user expected to pay in AUD and the price they actually paid due to the USD/AUD exchange rate, as well as additional foreign currency transaction fees.
Airbnb could pay out as much as $15 million in compensation.
Ms Cass-Gottlieb said: “Affected consumers ultimately paid significantly more than they expected to pay because of the prevailing USD/AUD exchange rate at the time.”
The ACCC has warned Aussies that scammers have been calling people, falsely claiming to help them get a refund, and they should never click on a link in a text message or open an attachment in an email if they weren’t expecting it.
People who receive an email or text from Airbnb or Deloitte Australia, which is administering the compensation claims program on behalf of Airbnb, should access the link to the claims portal in their official Airbnb account.
ACCC further advises consumers should only provide their personal information through the claims portal, and not to anyone else.
Airbnb Australia manager Susan Wheeldon apologised to those customers affected in a statement after the court case in December.
“While only a very small percentage of Australian guests are believed to have been impacted, we are disappointed that this happened. Airbnb would like to apologise to those guests,” she said.
“Airbnb is committed globally to price transparency. Our team continues to work diligently to find new ways to improve and innovate so that guests, hosts and the wider community can enjoy the benefits of travel.”
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