The popular online travel site Trivago misled Australian consumers about hotel rates, the Federal Court of Australia has found. In proceedings brought by the Australian consumer watchdog, it was alleged that Trivago engaged in misleading conduct and made false representations to consumers.

The ACCC argued that Trivago engaged in conduct which, among other things, led consumers to believe that the Trivago website provided an impartial, objective and transparent price comparison which would enable the consumer to quickly and easily identify the cheapest available offer for a particular (or the exact same) room at a particular hotel, which was found to be untrue.

The Court found that Trivago had engaged in the conduct alleged, and had contravened sections 18, 29 and 34 of the Australian Consumer Law. Penalties will be decided by the Court at a later date. The penalties for contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law can be substantial. It will be interesting to see how the remainder of this matter plays out, and whether it leads to any changes in the way that online comparison websites operate.

The ACCC has previously indicated it will continue to target comparison websites which mislead consumers into thinking they are getting a good deal, without properly disclosing the commissions they receive from consumer clicks.

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