The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Get Qualified Australia Pty Ltd (Get Qualified). The ACCC alleges that Get Qualified made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading and unconscionable conduct in connection with its supply of services to consumers seeking recognition of their prior learning to gain qualifications.
The ACCC has also brought proceedings against Get Qualified’s sole director, Mr Adam Wadi, alleging he was knowingly concerned in Get Qualified’s contraventions.
Get Qualified offers services which it asserts will assist consumers to gain qualifications such as a Certificate III in Carpentry from Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process. RPL is an assessment process whereby students can obtain recognition for their previous work experience or prior study in order to achieve credit towards a qualification.
The ACCC alleges that from around 1 January 2015 to date, Get Qualified engaged in misleading and unconscionable conduct by:
- assuring consumers they were eligible for qualifications when, in fact, the sales representatives were call centre staff who were not qualified to assess consumers’ eligibility for qualifications and were required to meet sales targets as part of their role
- telling consumers that they would be entitled to a “100% money back guarantee” if they were unsuccessful in obtaining the qualification through the RPL process when Get Qualified almost always declined customer refund requests in circumstances where customers did not receive their qualification
- using unfair sales tactics to pressure consumers, such as claiming there were limited places in courses when this was unknown to Get Qualified
- insisting upon up-front payment, either in full or under a payment plan, and only providing important information about the qualification requirements and Get Qualified’s terms and conditions after payment was made
- after payment was made, 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 to Get Qualified.
“The ACCC alleges that Get Qualified targeted vulnerable consumers with conduct that was clearly unfair and unreasonable, including providing them with false or misleading information about eligibility and refusing refunds,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“The ACCC alleges that since 1 January 2015, more than half of consumers that have been signed up and charged fees ranging from $700 to $8,500 have not obtained the qualification they were seeking.”
“Consumers must be provided with accurate and all relevant information in order to make an informed decision about their education. This is a recurring theme that the ACCC is determined to tackle,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking consumer redress orders, pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, orders for the implementation of a trade practices compliance program and costs.
On 19 December 2016, the Federal Court of Australia made orders to restrict GQA commencing or progressing debt collection activities against a specific group of affected consumers.
Consumers can contact the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502 for more information regarding these orders and to check whether they may be covered by the Orders.
Get Qualified does not offer its services to individuals who want to fund a qualification through the VET FEE-HELP scheme.
As part of a separate investigation jointly conducted with the NSW Fair Trading, the ACCC has taken action in the Federal Court against four private colleges and has also accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Careers Australia Group Limited in connection with conduct involving the VET FEE-HELP scheme.
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