Competition & Consumer Law Update – November 2019 Edition
COMPETITION AND CONSUMER LAW UPDATE – NOVEMBER 2019 EDITION
This is the latest in a monthly series detailing developments in competition and consumer law in Australia, including the activities of Australia’s competition and consumer regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), published judgments, recently issued proceedings and any relevant changes in the law.
This article covers events which occurred in November 2019. The previous October 2019 update is available here.
Court finds another training college engaged in unconscionable conduct
Justice Bromwich of the Federal Court has found that the Australian Institute of Professional Education (AIPE) engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and a system of unconscionable conduct by representing that its courses were free when in fact students would incur debts of up to $20,000. As a result of this misrepresentation and other unconscionable conduct (such as offering ‘free’ laptops and targeting vulnerable consumers), the AIPE enrolled students in approximately 16,000 courses and obtained over $210 million in Commonwealth funding. The ACCC is seeking orders that AIPE pay penalties and repay the Commonwealth funding, although AIPE’s capacity to satisfy any such orders may be limited given it has recently been placed into liquidation. This is the latest in a series of cases involving the Federal Government’s VET FEE-HELP program, with other proceedings against Captain Cook College and the Phoenix Institute of Australia ongoing. The ACCC media release can be viewed here.
ACCC appeals TPG ‘prepayments’ decision
As set out in the October update, the ACCC has appealed against the decision that TPG did not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct by requiring customers to make ‘prepayments’ for their internet plans that were not returned upon cancellation of the plan. The ACCC alleges that the trial judge erred in finding that consumers would be aware of the contract term when it was contained in ‘the fine print of a long and detailed contract’. The ACCC has not appealed the trial judge’s finding that the term requiring the prepayment was an unfair contract term. The ACCC media release can be viewed here.
Optus pays $6.4 million penalty for misleading NBN claims
The Federal Court has ordered that Optus pay $6.4 million in penalties for representing to consumers that their home internet connection would be cut off if they did not move to Optus’ NBN package. The Federal Court previously found that this was misleading, as consumers generally have 18 months to move to the NBN once it is connected. The ACCC has taken action against several other telecom companies regarding similar misrepresentations. The ACCC media release can be viewed here.
Kayo pays penalty for misleading advertising
Kayo Sports, which provides a streaming service for Foxtel’s sports channels, has agreed to pay a penalty of $12,600 for misleading advertising. Earlier this year, Kayo Sports’ website advertised that its basic package was available for the price of ‘2 months for $5’, but only disclosed that this offer was limited to customers who had not previously used the service in fine print. The ACCC alleged that the fine print was insufficient to dispel the misleading impression of the advertisement and issued an infringement notice, leading to Kayo Sports agreeing to pay the penalty. The ACCC media release can be viewed here.
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