CELEBRITY chef David Evans has launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, claiming rival Matt Moran’s company cheated with the help of a doublecrossing architect to win the rights to run Sydney’s Opera Bar.
Evans was left seething in 2014 after he ploughed more than $300,000 into his bid to win a 10-year lease for the bar at the foot of the Sydney Opera House, only to lose to Moran’s company, Solotel.
He now claims Moran won thanks to a rigged tender process, and the long-simmering tensions between the pair are set to spill into the NSW Supreme Court.
Mr Moran, a TV cooking judge, rejected the claim.
“The tender process as far as we were concerned was legit TRIVAGO could face a fine of $10 million or more after it admitted it had misled Australian consumers with as many as 400,000 TV ads that falsely claimed highlighted hotel deals were the best price.
It has also confessed to comparing prices between standard and luxury rooms without telling users.
Trivago’s business is based on aggregating offers from booking websites that pay when a consumer clicks on their deal.
Based in Dusseldorf, Germany, its global revenue for the first nine months of 2018 was $1.15 billion.
Australia is one of its biggest markets outside Europe and the US.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed action against Trivago in the Federal Court in August and Trivago’s admissions were to the ACCC’s two key accusations.
In a court document, Trivago says its “lowest rate statements may have caused some consumers to form an erroneous belief that the initial search page offers were the lowest rates” when in truth there may have been cheaper offers in a “more deals” section.
In the document, filed on Tuesday, Trivago admits it “engaged in conduct in contravention” of two sections of consumer law.
The ACCC had accused Trivago of making dodgy claims by comparing some providers’ prices for luxury rooms with others’ prices for standard rooms.
The luxury room was presented in red with a “strike-through price” above another site’s standard room “top position offer” in green.
While Trivago denied further accusations made by the ACCC, it has instigated changes to its site that include telling users its results rankings are influenced by “the compensation paid by the booking site”.
Consumer law expert Josh Simons of legal firm Thomson Geer said “financial penalties of $10 million or more are possible given the number of consumers potentially affected”.
The case is due to return to court for a case management hearing on December 14 in Melbourne.
In October the company told investors it had set aside money to pay for a possible penalty. and we won fair and square,” he said.
In June Evans launched legal action against the Sydney Opera House Trust as well as Darlinghurst-based architect Christopher Leslie Grinham and his firm, H & E Architects.
He is not suing Mr Moran or Solotel.
He claims Mr Grinham leaked confidential plans and designs for the bar to one of Mr Moran’s partners in their com- pany Solotel. Mr Grinham has strongly denied this.
The plans included Mr Evans’ bar placement and grand idea for a “charcuterie” — a meat and cheese room.
Mr Evans said he was the “David” to the Sydney Opera House Trust’s “Goliath”.
Mr Evans is suing the Sydney Opera House Trust and others, excluding Mr Moran and Solotel. The matter will return to court on December 7.
Gabrielle Miller, the face of Trivago’s ad campaign, is not implicated in any breaches of the law.