The Federal Court has found that Get Qualified Australia Pty Ltd made false or misleading representations and engaged in unconscionable conduct in its supply of services to consumers seeking recognition of their prior learning to gain qualifications, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
“Get Qualified used misleading marketing to create the impression that it could guarantee qualifications for consumers through a quick and simple process. In reality, Get Qualified could not directly offer qualifications. It is the role of Registered Trading Organisations to assess whether a qualification will be granted. Qualifications certainly cannot be guaranteed prior to a thorough assessment process,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court.
The ACCC estimates over 5,000 customers paid between $750 and $8500 to enrol in a course with Get Qualified and did not receive a qualification.
“Get Qualified took advantage of vulnerable people wanting to better their careers. This conduct has resulted in significant personal and financial stress for people who put a large amount of time, effort and money into trying to get a qualification,” Ms Court said.
The Court found that Get Qualified made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct through a range of practices, including:
- assuring consumers they were eligible for qualifications when, in fact, Get Qualified could not directly offer qualifications, and its employees were not qualified to assess eligibility
- telling consumers that they would be entitled to a “100% money back guarantee” if they were unsuccessful in obtaining the qualification despite Get Qualified almost always declining students’ requests for refunds
- falsely claiming there were limited places in courses
- failing to provide the service promised, refusing refund requests, and taking debt recovery action against consumers who did not receive a qualification and refused to make further payments.
In addition, Get Qualified engaged in a system of conduct that was unconscionable, comprising a number of elements, including:
- false or misleading representations
- obtaining contact details of potential customers through a “Free Skills Review” function on its website which produced an automated response irrespective of the information submitted by a consumer
- using unfair sales tactics to pressure consumers into enrolling
- requiring its sales representatives to take payment from consumers before providing detailed documentary information about the requirements for a qualification and not provide sufficient opportunity for consumers to consider all relevant information.
The Court held that the cumulative effect of the conduct of Get Qualified Australia was to create a situation in which GQA held a position of unequal bargaining power in its dealings with consumers. Moreover, Justice Beach held that GQA took advantage of the unequal bargaining position.
The Court also found that Get Qualified contravened the Australian Consumer Law by imposing an unfair contract term and entering into unsolicited consumer agreements by making uninvited sales phone calls to consumers, failing to disclose the full terms of the agreement and requiring payment within ten business days.
The Court also held that the sole director of Get Qualified, Mr Adam Wadi, was knowingly concerned in Get Qualified’s misleading and deceptive conduct, imposition of an unfair contract term, unsolicited consumer agreement breaches and its systemic unconscionable conduct. This was because the Court found that Mr Wadi was intimately involved in devising and implementing Get Qualified’s marketing scheme, sales tactics and business strategy.
“Directors and executives who are involved in designing and implementing a system of unconscionable conduct can be personally liable for contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law,” Ms Court said.
A hearing on relief against both Get Qualified and Mr Wadi will be held on a date fixed by the Court.
Get Qualified was placed into liquidation on 17 March 2017 and did not defend the case at trial on 28 March 2017.