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Thursday April 29 2004

How to complain about false billing scams

Information to help protect businesses against common scams perpetrated against them is available at the bottom of this article.

Consumer protection agencies join forces to protect Australian business from billing scams
http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/523682

Australia’s consumer protection agencies are stepping up their combined assault on false billing practices.

“A coordinated and cooperative approach by Commonwealth, State and Territory fair trading agencies will make certain there are no gaps within the jurisdictions and relevant legislation”, ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today. “Our combined forces will ensure we have a wider net to catch illegal conduct.

“This is part of a broader strategy among the jurisdictions involving coordinated enforcement action and continuing education to raise business’s awareness of these insidious practices which may cost businesses millions of dollars”.

All Commonwealth, State and Territory fair trading agencies have been exchanging information and assisting one another to effectively combat false billing practices.

“Let this be a warning to any company which thinks that false billing might be an easy way to make a quick buck”, Mr Samuel said. “There are now nine government agencies together watching and waiting to catch the next false biller in Australia”.

In Melbourne on Tuesday the Federal Court declared that an internet domain supplier Domain Names Australia Pty Ltd and its director Mr Chesley Paul Rafferty had breached the Trade Practices Act 1974, and restrained them from engaging in similar conduct for three years. The ACCC had alleged that Domain Names Australia Pty Ltd had made false or misleading representations to businesses which held a registered internet domain name by sending them notices inviting them to register a new internet domain name which was substantially similar to the business’s existing domain name.

Media Contacts:

  • ACCC – Ms Lin Enright, Director, Public Relations, (02) 6243 1108 or 0414 613 520
  • NSW – Mr Christian Fanker, (02) 9338 8997 or 0411 070 025
  • Victoria– Ms Janet Miller, (03) 9627 6129
  • Queensland – Mr David Smith, (07) 3225 1005 or 0409 496 534
  • South Australia – Ms Carolyn Warman, (08) 8204 9507
  • Western Australia – Mr Mike Winchester, (08) 9282 0663
  • Tasmania – Mr Roy Ormerod, (03) 6233 4555 or Mr Phil Marriott, (03) 6233 4500
  • ACT – Mr Greg Bayliss, (02) 6207 7492
  • Northern Territory – Mr Gary Clements, (08) 8982 1772

Media inquiries

  • Ms Lin Enright, Director, Public Relations, (02) 6243 1108, (0414) 613 520

Release # MR 069/04
Issued: 29th April 2004

Background

False billing scams being targeted include those that involve:

  • sending solicitations for trade directory entries that resemble invoices
  • misleading businesses in respect of the need for domain name renewals
  • demanding payments from businesses by misleading them into believing some prior agreement has been made for previously unsolicited services
  • claiming an affiliation with charities, police forces, fire-fighters, drug rehabilitation services or other worthy causes when no such affiliation exists
  • asserting that there is a government requirement for the services offered when no such requirements exists.

In previous proceedings brought by the ACCC against Internet Name Protection Pty Ltd and Internet Registrations Australia Pty Ltd, the Federal Court granted injunctions in late 2002 requiring them to cease sending solicitations for domain name renewals that closely resembled invoices. Proceedings continue against IT & T AG which has allegedly been falsely billing businesses for unsolicited entries in an international facsimile directory.

The New South Wales Office of Fair Trading is proceeding against Australasian Publications & Advertising Pty Ltd and its director, Mr Michael Jeffrey Oliver, following earlier action restraining the issue of false invoices for advertisements in Australian Police Bulletin and Statewide Firefighters. Orders for contempt are being sought in this instance and the court has the power to impose significant penalties.

The NSW Office of Fair Trading is also carefully examining the conduct of another company following complaints from businesses in various States and Territories that they were falsely billed for advertisements they did not authorise.

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading has successfully prosecuted companies and individuals undertaking false billing activities including:

  • Intense Media Pty Ltd which was convicted and fined $11,600
  • Amanda Stitchbury who was convicted and fined $10,500.

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading has also been working closely with the ACCC in a matter where the conduct is occurring across a number of jurisdictions.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has recently successfully prosecuted a number of companies engaged in false billing activity including:

  • Hilton Publishing Pty Ltd where fines of $64 000 were imposed plus costs
  • Salcap Pty Ltd where injunctions and fines of $2,500 were imposed
  • Power Pacific International Media Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $5000 in 2003
  • Springreef Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $3500 in 2003.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has a number of investigations in progress concerning alleged false billing conduct.

The Office of Consumer and Business Affairs, South Australia, is currently prosecuting two individuals for allegedly asserting a right to payment for unsolicited advertisements in a magazine called TouringSA. The first defendant has been charged with 21 counts and the second defendant with 11 counts. The first defendant has also been charged with three counts of allegedly stating that the magazine had sponsorship or approval it did not have.

In Western Australia, the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection has recently seized hundreds of letters which targeted small businesses and community groups from a company trading under the name of Employment Protection Australia. Many recipients alleged they believed they were dealing with a government agency and were legally obliged to buy a first aid kit being offered by the company. DOCEP is returning payments to recipients of the allegedly unsolicited offer.

Information to help protect businesses against common scams perpetrated against them is available from:

  • ACCC Infocentre: 1300 302 502
  • NSW Office of Fair Trading: 133220
  • Victoria Consumer Affairs Victoria: 1300 558 181
  • Queensland Office of Fair Trading: 1300 658 030
  • South Australian Office of Consumer and Business Affairs: 131 882 or (08) 8204 9777
  • Western Australian Department of Consumer and Employment Protection: 1300 304 054
  • Tasmanian Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading: 1300 654 499
  • ACT Office of Fair Trading: (02) 6207 0400
  • Northern Territory Consumer Affairs: 1800 019 319

5 Comments

  1. [...] to their Melbourne office on (03) 9349 5711. Click on this link for more information on how to complain about billing scams. from: whois.ausregistry.com [...]

    Pingback by domainwatch.org » DomainName.com.au Pty Ltd (Chesley Rafferty) — Friday June 10 2005 @ 8:17 am

  2. Was sent what looked like an invoice from a company called “DomainName Pty.Ltd” and was offered a free MP3 player if I paid our account by end March. I paid the ammount of $225 by March end for what I found out later was an offer to register for a dot com listing. I rang this company after speaking to my web designer (who had covered my domain name to be registered through another provider) and did receive a return call explaining what I had paid for, my cheque had already been cleared. I know I should have checked this out before paying money over but wonder how many others who are busy get caught out in a similar way. At the worst I have lost money, but I believe I will be listed as a dot com address for two years. Disappointing that with one call I could have avoided loosing this money. We have not long taken over an existing business and with all of the many jobs needed to be done this one has slipped by me.

    Comment by Alison Stone — Wednesday April 12 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  3. [...] Click on this link for more information on how to complain about billing scams. Here is what one domainwatch reader had to say about the marketing notices: ” … [...]

    Pingback by domainwatch.org » BEWARE: DomainName.com.au “invoices” (Blair Rafferty + Chesley Rafferty) — Friday April 28 2006 @ 12:05 am

  4. i received this week a letter from DomainName.com.au Pty Ltd. the letter looked familiar as it was a request to register the domain for two years with the offer of an mp3 player.
    looking back through my records I found that i had sent a cheque to DomainName.com.au Pty Ltd back in early February 2006. I began to have suspicions and tried to phone the organisation. however i received only a message over the last two days that all operators are busy. i then phoned my webpage host to confirm the domain organisation used when the website was set up nearly two years ago. they informed me that DomainName.com.au Pty Ltd was not the organisation. back in February I had payed the money in good faith expecting that a prompt would be made about two years from the date of website set up. so I have paid money that i cannot really afford, not received the confirmation or the promised mp3 player. Act in haste, repent at leisure.

    Comment by garry mann — Friday May 5 2006 @ 1:28 pm

  5. [...] Click on this link for more information on how to complain about billing scams. [...]

    Pingback by domainwatch.org » Explorer Domains warns against Chesley Rafferty — Sunday February 18 2007 @ 9:53 am

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