The ACCC has issued a public warning notice about the alleged conduct of Dismissals Direct Pty Ltd, trading as Unfair Dismissals Direct, a company that represented employees in unfair dismissal claims before the Fair Work Commission until earlier this year. Mr John Bingham is the sole director of Unfair Dismissals Direct.
Unfair Dismissals Direct did not offer legal services, but acted as a paid agent on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis and deducted its fees from any final settlement for clients.
From May 2018, the ACCC received complaints about Unfair Dismissals Direct, including from 18 consumers around Australia who complained that Unfair Dismissals Direct did not pay them their settlement monies, minus its fees, after their unfair dismissal claim was settled.
The ACCC has reasonable grounds to suspect that Unfair Dismissals Direct may have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, and made false or misleading representations, by telling consumers that it would receive settlement monies on their behalf, deduct its professional fee and transfer the remaining balance to the client when, in some instances, Unfair Dismissals Direct kept the remaining balance.
Unfair Dismissals Direct advertised its services online and offered potential clients a ‘free confidential assessment’. Their contract with clients outlined fees which were to be deducted from any settlement paid into the companies’ accounts after successful conclusion of their claim.
“We are very concerned that it appears some clients of Unfair Dismissals Direct, who were at a low point in their lives after losing their job were not paid the settlement balance owing to them.”
“We are warning Australian consumers seeking representation for unfair dismissal claims to choose their representatives carefully,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“Consumers should do their research before signing any contract, including for unfair dismissal services. If a business is trying to pressure you into signing a contract quickly, without ample opportunity to review the contract, ask yourself why.”
The Public Warning Notice has been issued because the ACCC has reasonable grounds to suspect that the conduct by Unfair Dismissals Direct may constitute a contravention of sections 18 and/or 29 of the Australian Consumer Law, and the ACCC is satisfied that consumers have suffered detriment and it is in the public interest to issue the notice.
The warning notice is available at Dismissals Direct Pty Ltd (also known as Unfair Dismissals Direct)
Advice for consumers seeking unfair dismissal representation
Individuals do not need to be represented at the Fair Work Commission, in fact almost half choose to represent themselves. Free and reliable information about the unfair dismissals process is available on the Fair Work Commission website.
Workers seeking to engage representation for unfair dismissal claims should read contracts carefully before engaging a representative to determine:
- what services will be provided;
- whether the contract limits their ability to keep negotiating for the best possible payout;
- how much the service costs; and
- whether the services are good value when compared to a potential payout.
Other tips include:
- Look for online reviews before signing up.
- Shop around – many representatives in the industry offer free consultations. Find the one that best suits your needs.
- Ask how any settlement money will be handled, will it be paid directly to you or the company?
- At the Fair Work Commission, you are able to request that any settlement money will be paid to you directly
- Lawyers are subject to strict legal obligations when handling client money. Commercial operators, who are not lawyers, are not subject to the same obligations.
- Keep a copy of your contract and any associated terms and conditions.
- If COVID restrictions allow, visit the offices of the representative before signing up.
For more information on the unfair dismissal process visit:
- Fair Work Commission
- Fair Work Ombudsman
Note to editors
The ACCC may issue a public warning notice to warn consumers about the conduct of a person where it has reasonable grounds to suspect a breach of certain provisions of the Australian Consumer Law. A key consideration for the ACCC in evaluating whether it is appropriate to issue a public warning notice is whether it is satisfied that one or more persons has suffered detriment as a result of the conduct.
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