Trivago has lost its appeal against a federal court ruling that found it misled Australian consumers about hotel deals.
In January this year, the court found the travel comparison website did not show customers the best deals, rather, it gave preference to its highest-spending advertisers.
“Contrary to the impression created by the relevant conduct, the Trivago website did not provide an impartial, objective and transparent price comparison service,” Federal Court Justice Mark Moshinsky said in his judgement.
“The fact that Trivago was being paid by the online booking sites was not made clear.”
On Wednesday, the court dismissed Trivago’s appeal, meaning the matter will now return to the primary judge to consider penalties.
The maximum penalty for breaching Australian Consumer Law through misleading representation is $10 million per breach.
The matter was first brought to the court by consumer watchdog the ACCC, who instituted proceedings against Trivago in 2018.
ACCC chair Rod Sims said the decision should serve as a warning for other businesses.
“This is a win for consumers and is an important warning to comparison sites that they must not mislead consumers about the results they recommend,” Sims said.
“We brought this case because we were concerned that consumers were being misled by Trivago’s claims that their site was getting the best deal for consumers, when in fact they were shown the deals that benefited Trivago.”
“Trivago’s conduct meant that consumers may have paid more for a room at a hotel than they should have, and hotels lost business from direct bookings despite offering a cheaper prices.”