The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Acquire Learning & Careers Pty Ltd (Acquire Learning) for allegedly engaging in unconscionable conduct, making false or misleading representations and breaching the unsolicited consumer agreements provisions in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), by its conduct in telemarketing VET FEE-HELP diploma courses between July 2014 and March 2015.
Acquire Learning, in its capacity as an education services broker and recruitment service provider, marketed VET FEE-HELP diploma courses on behalf of various Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). The cost of these diplomas ranged from approximately $19,000 to $52,000 depending on the course and whether the student signed up to a Single or Double Diploma.
“The ACCC alleges that Acquire Learning engaged in unconscionable conduct, including by taking advantage of vulnerable consumers and using unfair sales tactics to pressure consumers to enroll for a course and apply for VET FEE-HELP assistance,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“The ACCC is alleging that Acquire Learning’s telemarketers signed consumers up to courses without taking into account their individual circumstances and misled consumers about their suitability for the course and how the course would improve their employment prospects.”
“Acquire earned commissions from telemarketing to prospective students. The students did not receive the promised employment prospects and were left with a significant VET FEE-HELP debt,” Mr Sims said.
Many consumers who submitted requests for VET FEE-HELP assistance and enrolled in courses as a result of calls from Acquire Learning have subsequently had their enrolments cancelled, and VET FEE-HELP debt annulled.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, orders for compliance program audits and costs.
The matter is listed for a case management conference in the Federal Court in Melbourne on 4 February 2016 at 9:30am before Justice Murphy.
- Acquire Learning is an education broker and recruitment service that markets on behalf of certain RTOs who are responsible for accepting and finalising the enrolments. The ACCC investigation has focussed on the telemarketing aspect of Acquire Learning’s business.
- The ACCC has been investigating a number of allegations related to the vocational education sector. This has included investigating allegations against RTOs who are the registered providers of the courses and have been engaged in direct marketing to prospective students through door-to-door sales.
- The ACCC and the Department of Education and Training have instituted three proceedings against RTOs, following a joint investigation by the ACCC and the NSW Fair Trading: