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Industry and Commerce guilty of misleading Australian SMBs

Industry and Commerce has been found guilty by The Federal Court of misleading local small businesses into signing up for its online business directory.

The Spanish-based company, European City Guide SL (trading in Australia as Industry and Commerce) was found to have engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act between 2006 and 2009.

Industry and Commerce has been ordered not to claim or seek a payment for online directory services from any Australian businesses that received and completed one of the ECG Forms which contained the representation.

Industry and Commerce will also have to pay 98 percent of the ACCC’s costs.

According to ACCC Deputy Chair, these orders mean that Australian businesses who were misled by Industry and Commerce with these forms do not have to pay.

“Small businesses are often the target of unscrupulous operators who capitalise on a busy office environment. Important details in carefully crafted letters are easily missed in the fine print or misconstrued because of the use of well-chosen graphics. In the Industry and Commerce matter it was the misuse of the Australian flag that suggested a connection with a government agency”.

The Court found that between 2006 and 2009, Industry and Commerce wrote to Australian businesses asking them to update or check the information on the Register of Business Information was “positively and correctly presented”.

The forms represented that the Register of Business Information was a record of the Australian Government and, for some of that time, represented that the Register would be free to update, when this was not the case.

Businesses that completed the forms were pursued by Industry and Commerce for fees of between $1200 and $1600 per year for a minimum of three years.  Businesses who tried to cancel the service, which amounted to a listing on an Industry and Commerce website, were threatened with debt collection and legal action.

Kell suggests any businesses that receive unsolicited offers be wary.

“If a telephone call or an ‘invoice’ is received that comes from a publication you have never heard of, or that you don’t remember putting an entry in, don’t pay or give out your details until you have looked into the matter further.”

Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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