The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against ABG Pages Pty Ltd (ABG Pages) and an individual, alleging misleading or deceptive conduct, false or misleading representations, undue harassment and systemic unconscionable conduct in its dealings with small businesses, who were actual or potential customers of its online business directory service.
Since 2009, ABG Pages has offered an online business directory service to a range of customers, including small businesses, which the ACCC alleges has little, if any, value.
“The ACCC alleges that the conduct of ABG Pages resulted in a number of small businesses paying significant amounts of money to ABG Pages for advertising they did not want,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.
“We want to send a clear message that making false or misleading representations, engaging in high pressure sales tactics and unduly harassing customers to enter into contracts or pay invoices are not legitimate business strategies," Dr Schaper said.
The ACCC alleges that ABG Pages breached the Australian Consumer Law by:
- falsely representing that large businesses purchased their directory services
- using high pressure sales tactics to sell listings in its online business directory;
- misleading businesses into entering one or more contracts;
- refusing to cancel contracts which customers did not want and did not intend to enter into;
- refusing to accept customers’ attempts to cancel contracts;
- misleading businesses about the total duration and the total price of contracts;
- misleading businesses into entering into second or subsequent contracts for additional listings; and
- unduly harassing three customers by repeatedly contacting them for payments.
The ACCC alleges that this conduct was part of a system of unconscionable conduct by ABG Pages.
The ACCC is seeking penalties, declarations, injunctions, a disqualification order against the individual, findings of fact, corrective notices and costs.
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