Get Qualified Australia (GQA) is a defendant in legal proceedings brought by the ACCC. The ACCC allege GQA engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, unfair contract terms and unconscionable conduct. They also alleged GQA made false or misleading representations to its customers.
- GQA was a company that matched its customers with Registered Training Organisations. This helped them to get formal qualifications. They were then able
to apply for jobs holding recognised certificates and qualifications.
- GQA offered money back guarantees to its customers.
- GQA is now in liquidation.
The ACCC used the Australian Consumer Law to take legal action against GQA.
The ACCC alleged that GQA had:
- engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in contravention of s18
- engaged in unconscionable conduct in contravention of s21 and
- its agreements contained unfair contract terms within the meaning of ss23 and 24.
Section 137F allows for a freezing order. This means that a company cannot chase customers for outstanding payments.
The court stated that s137F:
“is not available for the purpose of preserving assets to meet pecuniary penalties”.
The section is available to:
“preserve assets to meet orders for compensation”.
The court granted the ACCC a freezing order pending the final outcome of its legal action. The ACCC didn’t have to give the usual undertaking in this case. The ACCC didn’t have to give the undertaking. The Court believed the ACCC was acting in the public interest.
The orders prevented GQA “commencing or progressing debt collection activities”. The orders also froze several of GQA’s bank accounts
According to the ACCC, GQA engaged in misleading and unconscionable conduct by:
- not honouring its “100% money back guarantee”;
- assuring customers they were eligible for qualifications when they weren’t;
- GQA used unfair sales tactics;
- GQA insisted on up-front payments and providing important terms and conditions after payment;
“The ACCC alleges that Get Qualified targeted vulnerable consumers with conduct that was clearly unfair and unreasonable, including providing them with false or misleading information about eligibility and refusing refunds,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
The Results of Alleged Misleading and Deceptive Conduct
GQA is now in liquidation
“As a result of the freezing orders and the ACCC’s and ASQA’s actions, GQA has been starved of funds, placing [it] in a difficult financial position:” Get Qualified CEO Adam Wadi.
The ACCC proceeds with the prosecution even though the company is in liquidation.
The ACCC will no doubt win the prosecution as there is no defence. The Court will grant the pecuniary fines asked for by the ACCC. Another precedent will be set.
How would your business cope if it were in this situation? You may not intend to engage in misleading and unconscionable conduct. But the law does not take into account your intentions.
Misleading and deceptive conduct can occur in any business communication:
- advertising – online and offline
- telephone conversations
- business proposals
- terms and conditions