The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking legal action against an online business directory provider, alleging unconscionable conduct that resulted in numerous small businesses paying significant amounts of money for unwanted advertising.
ABG Pages Pty Ltd and an individual will face the Federal Court, accused of “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
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 the following breaches of Australian Consumer Law by ABG Pages as paty of a ‘system of unconscionable conduct”:
- 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 is seeking penalties, declarations, injunctions, a disqualification order against the individual, findings of fact, corrective notices and costs.
“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,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper.