By Reuters | Updated: 8 June 2022
Australia’s antitrust regulator has filed a lawsuit against Airbnb, accusing the accommodation-sharing website of misleading users into paying more than advertised for their stays, widening its scrutiny of global technology platforms.
From 2018 to 2021, the San Francisco-based internet giant advertised and charged room rates in United States dollars without indicating the much higher figures in Australian dollars, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a court filing that it made public on Wednesday.
Airbnb refused to refund users who complained about being misled, saying they had chosen to view rates in US dollars even though users said they had not, the ACCC said in the filing. Airbnb also refused to refund currency conversion fees, claiming they were banks’ responsibility, the regulator said.
Airbnb was not available for comment.
The lawsuit puts Airbnb in the company of several high-profile targets of a regulator bent on reining in the power of big technology firms. Last year, its actions led to Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google paying media outlets content licensing fees.
It is currently conducting a review of Amazon and other online retailers that may recommend changes to the sector.
In the Airbnb lawsuit, the ACCC said users “were deprived of the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether and at what price to book accommodation.”
They “suffered further harm in the form of price difference costs and, in at least some cases, transaction fee costs,” the regulator said, without giving dollar amounts.
Airbnb stood to benefit unfairly over competitors because the “false and misleadingly low prices conveyed … made the accommodation available on the platform appear to be more attractive,” the ACCC said.
The ACCC said it is seeking an unspecified fine and court orders for Airbnb to compensate affected customers. In a statement, it said thousands of people had complained to Airbnb about the difference in advertised prices and amounts charged.
The Australian dollar bought an average of 72 US cents during the time covered by the lawsuit, meaning a customer renting accommodation advertised at $500 (roughly Rs. 38,900) would actually pay around A$700 (roughly Rs. 39,200) plus foreign exchange fees, the regulator said.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Elon Musk Deploys Starlink Service in Iran Amid Country-Wide Internet Restrictions
By ANI | Updated: 24 September 2022
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has deployed his satellite-based Starlink service in Iran amid widespread protests in the country following which authorities had restricted internet access.
This Iranian government had cut off internet access for many of its citizens on Wednesday amid widespread protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody, according to reports.
On Friday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk had indicated that he will make Starlink available in Iran.
US State Secretary Antony Blinken earlier announced on Twitter about advancing internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people by issuing a General License to provide them greater access to digital communications to counter, what he claimed, was the Iranian government’s censorship.
We took action today to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people, issuing a General License to provide them greater access to digital communications to counter the Iranian government’s censorship.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 23, 2022
Replying to Blinken’s tweet, Musk wrote, “Activating Starlink.”
Activating Starlink …— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 23, 2022
Protestors have been demanding basic rights of freedom and holding demonstrations against the mandatory dress codes including the compulsory wearing of the Hijab.
The protests in Iran erupted last weekend after Mahsa Amini died following her detainment by Iran’s morality police. She died a few days after falling into a coma while being detained on an accusation of violating a law related to hijabs.
It is worth noting that earlier this week, lawmakers from New York and New Jersey had urged the US Treasury Department to grant approval if SpaceX sought licensing permission to make internet service available in Iran.
Lawmakers, led by Claudia Tenney of New York and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, reportedly made the appeal to the Treasury Department, Fox News had reported. The letter came after Musk tweeted Monday that SpaceX would seek exemptions from sanctions on the country.
SpaceX has deployed Starlink in emergency situations in past, such as in Ukraine after Russia invaded and in the South Pacific islands of Tonga after a volcanic eruption.
Meesho Records Nearly 87.6 Lakh Orders on Day 1 of 5-Day Festive Sale
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 24 September 2022
Softbank-backed e-commerce firm Meesho on Saturday said it registered around 80 percent jump in the business with close to 87.6 lakh orders on Friday, the first day of its five-day festive season sale.
Tier 2, 3 and 4 cities accounted for around 85 percent of orders on day one, the company said in a statement.
“Meesho clocked a record around 87.6 lakh orders on the first day of its flagship festive sale event — the Meesho Mega Blockbuster Sale. This is the highest number of orders recorded by the company in a single day – up about 80 per cent from day one of previous year’s sale,” the statement said.
The company said that it has received orders from deep corners of the country such as Jamnagar, Alappuzha, Chhindwara, Davengere, Hassan, Gopalganj, Guwahati, Siwan, Thanjavur and Ambikapur.
“With a wide assortment of around 6.5 crore active product listings at lowest prices, the sale exemplifies Meesho’s mission towards democratising e-commerce for everyone,” it said.
Fashion, beauty & personal care, home & kitchen, and electronic accessories were the top-selling categories on day one, while consumers bought everything from sarees to analogue watches, jewellery sets, mobile cases and covers, Bluetooth headphones, choppers and peelers in record volumes to fulfil their festive shopping aspirations, the company said.
“With around 85 per cent of orders and approximately 75 percent of sellers coming from Tier 2 and beyond cities, we are humbled to have created a far-reaching impact in the deepest corners of the country.
“We will continue to fuel the discoverability of hyperlocal businesses and products, empower MSMEs and further boost accessibility and affordability for our heterogeneous base of consumers,” Meesho CXO for Business Utkrishta Kumar said.
Qualcomm Automotive Future Business Increases to $30 Billion With Snapdragon Digital Chassis Product: Details
By Reuters | Updated: 23 September 2022
US chip designer Qualcomm Inc on Thursday said its automotive business “pipeline” increased to $30 billion (roughly Rs. 2,42,770 crore), up more than $10 billion (roughly Rs. 81,000 crore) since its third quarter results were announced in late July.
The jump in future business was thanks to its Snapdragon Digital Chassis product used by car makers and their suppliers, Qualcomm said at its Automotive Investor Day. The Snapdragon Digital Chassis can provide assisted and autonomous driving technology, as well as in-car infotainment and cloud connectivity.
With electric vehicles and increasing autonomous features in cars, the number of chips used by automakers is surging and the automotive market has been a key growth area for chipmakers.
“When you think about a per car basis, a lower tier car, we have an opportunity of approximately $200 stretching all the way to $3,000 (roughly Rs. 2.4 lakh) at the high tier,” said Akash Palkhiwala, Qualcomm’s CFO.
“Going forward the mix will continue to shift towards the high end so the opportunity will keep expanding.”
Qualcomm said the automotive market size it is targeting could grow to as large as $100 billion (roughly Rs. 8,09,500 crore) by 2030.
In fiscal year 2022, it estimates its automotive business revenue will be about $1.3 billion (roughly Rs. 10,520 crore), from $975 million (roughly Rs. 7,900 crore) the previous year. By fiscal year 2026, it estimates that to rise to over $4 billion (roughly Rs. 32,400 crore) and in fiscal year 2031 to over $9 billion (roughly Rs. 72,850 crore).
Qualcomm also announced an expanded partnership with Mercedes Benz Group AG which will be using the Snapdragon Cockpit for its in-car infotainment system from 2023.
Qualcomm also has many automotive customers in China. Asked about the impact of broader US export regulations, CEO Cristiano Amon said “strong win-win partnerships between the US enterprises and the China enterprises will always be a force of stability”.
“But we’ll see what the future holds,” he added.
Earlier this week, chipmaker Nvidia unveiled a new automotive central computer called DRIVE Thor to provide autonomous and assisted driving as well as in-car digital entertainment and services.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Jeff Bezos, Andy Jassy Ordered by US FTC to Testify in Amazon Prime Investigation
By Associated Press | Updated: 23 September 2022
Federal regulators are ordering Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy to testify in the government’s investigation of Amazon Prime, rejecting the company’s complaint that the executives are being unfairly harassed in the probe of the popular streaming and shopping service.
The Federal Trade Commission issued an order late Wednesday denying Amazon’s request to cancel civil subpoenas sent in June to Bezos, the Seattle-based company’s former CEO, and Jassy. The order also sets a deadline of Jan. 20 for the completion of all testimony by Bezos, Jassy and 15 other senior executives, who also were subpoenaed.
Jassy took over the helm of the online retail and tech giant from Bezos, one of the world’s richest individuals, in July 2021. Bezos became executive chairman.
Amazon hasn’t made the case that the subpoenas “present undue burdens in terms of scope or timing,” FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson said in the order on behalf of the agency. However, the FTC did agreed to modify some provisions of the subpoenas that it acknowledged appeared too broad.
The FTC has been investigating since March 2021 the sign-up and cancellation practices of Amazon Prime, which has an estimated 200 million members around the globe.
The company said it was disappointed but not surprised that the FTC mostly ruled in favor of its own position, but it was pleased that the agency “walked backed its broadest requests” in the subpoenas.
“Amazon has cooperated with the FTC throughout the investigation and already produced tens of thousands of pages of documents,” the company said in a statement. “We are committed to engaging constructively with FTC staff, but we remain concerned that the latest requests are overly broad and needlessly burdensome, and we will explore all our options.”
In a petition to the FTC filed last month, the company objected to the subpoenas to Bezos and Jassy, saying the agency “has identified no legitimate reason for needing their testimony when it can obtain the same information, and more, from other witnesses and documents.” Amazon said the FTC was hounding Bezos, Jassy and the other executives, calling the information demanded in the subpoenas “overly broad and burdensome.”
The investigation has widened to include at least four other Amazon-owned subscription programs: Audible, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited, and Subscribe & Save, as well as an unidentified third-party program not offered by Amazon. The regulators have asked the company to identify the number of consumers who were enrolled in the programs without giving their consent, among other customer information.
With an estimated 150 million US subscribers, Amazon Prime is a key source of revenue, as well as a wealth of customer data, for the company, which runs an e-commerce empire and ventures in cloud computing, personal “smart” tech and beyond. Amazon Prime costs $139 a year. The service added a coveted feature this year by obtaining exclusive video rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.”
Last year, Amazon asked unsuccessfully that FTC Chair Lina Khan step aside from separate antitrust investigations into its business, contending that her public criticism of the company’s market power before she joined the government makes it impossible for her to be impartial. Khan was a fierce critic of tech giants Facebook (now Meta), Google and Apple, as well as Amazon. She arrived on the antitrust scene in 2017, writing an influential study titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” when she was a Yale law student.
UPI Daily Transactions Expected to Cross 1 Billion-Mark in Next 5 Years: Nirmala Sitharaman
By ANI | Updated: 20 September 2022
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the Unified Payments Interface-based transaction is expected to reach one billion per day in the next five years.
Addressing an event organised by the industry body FICCI, Sitharaman said that the data released by NPCI shows that UPI reported 6.28 billion transactions worth Rs. 10.62 trillion (nearly Rs. 11,00,000 crore) in July 2022.
“Substantial growth is being seen in transactions on a monthly basis. UPI aims to process one billion transactions a day in the next five years,” she said.
The Finance Minister also said that technology adoption in India is very high not only in major cities but also in tier-2 and 3 cities and rural areas. “Digital adoption by Indian citizen is amazing,” she added.
Addressing the session ‘Future of Financing’ at FICCI LEADS 2022, Sitharaman said that the future of finance is going to be Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) and “there is a sense of urgency with which we need to plan.”
She also stated that the role of artificial intelligence is going to be critical in fintech sector. “I see a big role for AI in fintech sector in detection of fraud, crime and accessing the risks. We will have to ensure personal data security, national and cyber security in our planning,” she added.
The Finance Minister stated that India is working on a system where only a single KYC is needed which can be used across different spheres.
Sitharaman further stated that the future of finance will be driven more and more through banking and related services and account aggregators will play a crucial role in it. “Account aggregator system has been adopted by 21 banks including public sector banks,” she added.
The union minister emphasised that the link between start-ups, fintech and private equity is visible. There are 6,636 start-ups and 21 unicorns in fintech sector and private equity have helped them to become start-up. “Private equity is pushing them quickly in the path of progress,” she said.
“We need to make sure that climate risks are not going to hit us because we are talking about a future that is digital,” she added.
Chubu Electric joins all-Japan Toshiba buyout consortium
By: Reuters, September 18, 2022
TOKYO, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Chubu Electric Power Co (9502.T) said on Sunday it is joining private equity firm Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) in conducting due diligence for a potential buyout of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp (6502.T).
Toshiba, which is exploring going private and other options, has selected Bain Capital, CVC Capital Partners, Brookfield Asset Management and a consortium involving JIP and state-backed Japan Investment Corp to proceed to a second bidding round.
JIP has contacted more than 10 companies including Chubu Electric, Orix Corp (8591.T) and Central Japan Railway Co (JR Central) (9022.T) to participate in its consortium, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Sunday.
Orix said it was considering investing in Toshiba, without providing details. Toshiba said it does not comment on candidates for the potential buyout. JR Central did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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