US online travel giant Expedia may be rethinking its legal strategy in Australia, following a case in Canberra where lawyers for its local offshoot argued that a website claim that customers can “book with confidence” should not be relied on because it was “simply a sales pitch”. Wotif’s representatives were defending the company in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, after an aggrieved customer lodged a formal complaint about the misrepresentation of an apartment in Honolulu, Hawaii, which he had booked via Wotif.

In a clear demonstration that it’s often better to settle such issues before they go to court, Wotif’s position — that fine print in its terms and conditions indicated that it was simply relying on the representations of third parties when it came to the accommodation it offers — was comprehensively rebutted by the Tribunal, which formally found that Expedia had “engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct” by claiming customers could trust its “great local knowledge”.

The disgruntled traveller, who said when he arrived in Oahu the advertised “apartment with beach views” was actually a “dilapidated basement with views of an outdoor kitchenette,” was awarded a full refund. The Wotif website no longer displays the “book with confidence” logo.


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