The Federal Court today ordered Get Qualified Australia Pty Ltd (GQA) to pay an $8 million penalty for multiple breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and its sole director, Mr Adam Wadi, to pay a penalty of $500,000.
This is one of the highest penalties ever awarded for breaches of the ACL.
Justice Beach stated that “the education sector has been infected by the parasitic practices of operators preying upon the vulnerable and the unwary” and that GQA’s conduct was “serious, extensive and deliberate”.
The Court also made declarations that GQA:
- 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
- imposed an unfair contract term and entered into unsolicited consumer agreements by making uninvited sales phone calls to people, failing to disclose the full terms of the agreement and requiring payment within ten business days.
“Get Qualified Australia and Mr Wadi took advantage of vulnerable people trying to advance their career. Some examples of the illegal conduct included enrolling people into courses through misleading marketing and unfair sales tactics, not providing the service customers paid for, and refusing customers refunds despite GQA’s 100% money-back guarantee promise,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
Mr Wadi was found to be knowingly concerned in this conduct. In addition to ordering Mr Wadi to pay a penalty of $500,000, the Court made an order disqualifying Mr Wadi from managing a corporation for seven years.
Justice Beach stated that Mr Wadi’s “conduct and self-justifying arrogance, as disclosed in some of the evidence before me, reflects an individual not suited to managing a corporation”.
The ACCC said the size of the penalties was in keeping with the nature of the conduct.
“It is important that penalties for breaching the Australian Consumer Law reflect the seriousness of the conduct. We believe the substantial penalties imposed in this case do reflect the egregious conduct of both GQA and Mr Wadi,” said Ms Court.
Get Qualified was placed into liquidation on 17 March 2017 and did not defend the case at trial on 28 March 2017.
If consumers have specific enquiries about the liquidation they can contact the administrators, Hall Chadwick, at https://www.hallchadwick.com.au/contact-us/.
On 23 June 2017, Justice Beach handed down judgment in the ACCC’s proceedings against Get Qualified Australia (GQA) and its sole director, Mr Adam Wadi.
GQA’s false or misleading representations and misleading or deceptive conduct occurred 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.
GQA also 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.
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