Travel Daily

Trivago facing $90m fine

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THE Australian Competitio­n & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has told a federal court that hotel comparison site Trivago should be fined at least $90 million for misleading consumers about hotel rates (TD 21 Jan 2020).

The penalty hearing for the online travel company is currently before Justice Mark Moshinsky after Trivago failed to overturn a court ruling late last year (TD 05 Nov 2020), which at the time stated the Expedia-owned brand had breached Australian Consumer Law when it knowingly “tricked” users into believing the most visible search results were the best value.

If a penalty in the vicinity of $90 million were to be handed down, it would make it one of the highest ever imposed in Australia for a breach of consumer laws, a justifiabl­e amount in the view of Tim Begbie QC representi­ng the ACCC, who said Trivago’s conduct was “careful and calculated”.

The court heard yesterday that 213 million searches for hotel rooms on Trivago’s site were made over a 13-month period, less than half of the time the company had misled people.

In its presentati­on, Trivago argued a much smaller fine was reasonable, putting forward $15 million as a logical amount.

During its failed appeals case, the Full Federal Court ruled that Trivago had not sufficient­ly disclosed to users that its website used an algorithm that gave prominence to accommodat­ion providers, paying the site a higher payment fee (cost per click).

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said at the time the case represente­d an important warning to comparison sites that they must not mislead consumers about the results they recommend.

The penalty hearing continues this week.

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