Global hotel booking comparison site Trivago has been fined $45 million for misleading customers after advertisements claimed it made it easy to find “the best price” for rooms.

The Federal Court found Trivago had breached Australian Consumer Law on multiple occasions and today the company was ordered to pay $44.7 million in penalties as well as the legal costs of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought the case against it.

Trivago’s advertising claimed to identify the cheapest rates available for consumers’ search, the court however estimated that consumers ended up paying around $30 million more for their hotel rooms with higher priced offers set as the top offer over alternative lower priced offers in 66.8 per cent of listings.

Consumer campaign ‘The Great Australian Rip Off’, launched ahead of the Federal election is fighting for a crackdown on third-party intermediaries as it exposes the ‘secret’ commissions paid to brokers, commercial comparison websites, and third parties, that contribute to rising premiums.

Insurers have admitted secret commissions paid to commercial comparison websites – some as high as 40 to 60 per cent – end up being passed on to most Australians through higher premiums for insurance, electricity, and the internet.

Campaign spokesperson and consumer advocate, Trond Smith has spent eight years investigating commercial comparison websites and warned consumers “beware of commercial comparison websites in their hunt for a good deal”.

“Trivago is just another example of how the sites that claim to save time and money mislead and rip off customers,” he said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recommended for an industry code to expose the ‘secret’ commissions and The Great Australian Rip Off campaign is calling for more accountability and penalties to protect consumers.

“There needs to be a mandatory code to expose commissions, expose commercial relationships between brokers, commercial comparison websites and third-parties with suppliers, and impose penalties for breaches of the code.

‘The Great Australian Rip Off’ is uniting consumers, who are fed up with the high cost of living, to create pressure to help bring down household bills,” Mr Smith said.