domainwatch.org

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

Wednesday May 8 2002

ACCC obtains injunction against ING

Filed under: Internet Name Group — Josh @ 8:07 pm

ACCC obtains injunction against ING
http://www.itnews.com.au/story.cfm?ID=9718

” …
After the Federal Court hearing in Melbourne Monday, ING released a statement suggesting that it was proceeding ‘with business as usual’, without specifically referring to the undertakings that had been issued in the consent order.

ING was dumped earlier this year as an accredited registrar of .com.au domain names.
… “

from: http://www.icannwatch.org/article.pl?sid=02/05/08/182936

The following is a transcript of the orders made by Ryan J. in the Federal Court on 6 May 2002:

IN THE FEDERAL COURT OF AUSTRALIA
VICTORIA DISTRICT REGISTRY

No. V 220 of 2002

BETWEEN:

AUSTRALIAN COMPETITION AND CONSUMER COMMISSION
Applicant

and

INTERNET NAME PROTECTION PTY LTD (formerly known as OPEN YOUR MIND ADVERTISING PTY LTD) (trading as INTERNET NAME GROUP and formerly as INTERNET NAME PROTECTION) ACN 087 441 450
First Respondent

MARK SPEKTOR
Second Respondent

MINUTES OF CONSENT ORDERS

JUDGE: The Honourable Justice Ryan
DATE OF ORDER: 6 May 2002
WHERE MADE: Melbourne

THE COURT ORDERS BY CONSENT THAT:

Upon the first respondent, by its counsel, undertaking that until the hearing and determination of the proceeding, or until further order:

(1) it will not in Australia or elsewhere, publish, distribute, or display material, by any means whatsoever (including electronic transmission and/or oral communications) in which it:

(a) represents that the letters “bz” in the domain name “.bz” means or refers to “business”;

(b) represents that registration of a domain name in the “.bz” domain indicates the registration of a business;

(c) represents that it has a pre-existing relationship with a person, if in truth it does not, in particular, by stating that there is such a relationship or by describing its notices as “Renewal Advices” or by an invitation to “confirm” a renewal or by addressing its notices to “accounts payable”. The notices it sends to those persons to whom it does not have a pre-existing relationship will include the statement: “You do not have to renew your domain name registration through ING” (such statement to appear in the body of the text (in the same size and font as that text) on the front page of the notices);

(d) represents that it has the authority itself, and itself can provide, the registration or renewal of a customer’s domain name;

(c) represents that it is offering multiple free services, if in truth it is not;

(f) represents that it has a relationship with Melbourne IT that in truth it does not;

(g) represents that it can register “.com.au” domain names on the internet for a period of more than two years;

(h) represents that it is necessary for persons to have its assistance to obtain a registry key;

(i) represents that an application for pre-registration of one of the names “.biz” or “.info” must be made through it;

(j) represents that it is necessary to have access to a “registry key” before a domain name can be renewed, if in truth it is not;

(k) represents there are no statutory warranties as to merchantability or fitness for purpose applicable to services it provides, alternatively that clause 3 of the First Respondent’s Terms and Conditions Applying to Pre-Registration of Domain Names is capable of avoiding the effect of sections 68 and 74 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth);

(2) any form it uses which bears the logo of Melbourne IT will be accompanied by a statement to the following effect: “This form will be submitted by us to Melbourne IT on your behalf”, such statement to appear in the body of the text (in the same size and font as that text) on the front page of the notice which requests completion of the form;

(3) it will preserve all records required to supply the information referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Motion, Notice of which is dated 17 April 2002.

THE COURT ORDERS THAT:

1. The Motion, Notice of which is dated 17 April 2002, be otherwise dismissed.

2. Costs be reserved.

3. The Directions Hearing be adjourned to 24 May 2002.

Tuesday May 7 2002

Web name group faces conduct charge

Filed under: Internet Name Group — Josh @ 8:25 pm

Web name group faces conduct charge (no subscription required!)
http://afr.com/it/2002/05/07/FFXWH0I8V0D.html

ING bites back at ACCC claims
http://zdnet.com.au/newstech/ebusiness/story/0,2000024981,20265051,00.htm

” …
Domain name reseller Internet Name Group claims that many of the complaints forming the basis of the ACCC’s recent decision to take legal action against it are outdated.
… “

I’ll let you be the judge …

March 2002

Internet Name Group notice Internet Name Group notice Internet Name Group notice

< Nov 2001
Internet Name Group notice Internet Name Group notice Internet Name Group notice

Internet Name Group notice Internet Name Group notice Internet Name Group notice

Internet Name Group notice Internet Name Group notice

Monday May 6 2002

“Business as usual for ING” – according to ING

Filed under: Internet Name Group — Josh @ 8:40 pm

I’m looking forward to the ACCC’s media release (response).

” …

MEDIA RELEASE

BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR ING

(Melbourne, Australia – 6 May, 2002) Internet Name Group (ING) is pleased to report that it has provided interim undertakings to the Federal Court and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding its marketing practices following the ACCC+s pplication for interlocutory orders from the Federal Court. ING is hopeful that a speedy final resolution will be reached between the ACCC and ING.

“Since mid-2001 we have been working with the ACCC to ensure that the way we provide and market our services is in line with their requirements,” said ING Director Mark Spektor.

“We kept the ACCC up to date with all changes in our marketing practices and sent all required amendments through on 31 October last year believing we had resolved all issues.

“The recent legal action initiated by the ACCC came as a total surprise. We had not heard from them for six months and understood they were satisfied with our addressing of these issues.

“Many of the complaints on which the allegations are based are not current as they referred to old marketing practices which were amended last year. We would therefore like to reassure the marketplace that we continue to carry on our business at our usual high standard while these issues are being resolved.

“However, we have taken this matter very seriously and will continue to work closely with the ACCC to ensure that our current and future practices meet their requirements,” he continued.

Mr Spektor anticipates that all issues with the ACCC will be resolved. Once the issues are resolved, ING is confident that auDA will reinstate the company as a provisionally accredited registrar of .com.au domain names. In March 2002 at the request of auDA, ING became a signatory to the Interim Code of Conduct which protects consumers. This was prior to the ACCC application.

ING was established in 1999 and is one of Australia’s largest suppliers of Internet names and related services. The company aims to be innovative and pro-active and the first to market new domain name products and services in Australia.

ENDS.

… “

Tuesday April 30 2002

Australian registrar linked to NZ domain “scam”

Filed under: Internet Name Group — Josh @ 8:46 pm

Australian registrar linked to NZ domain “scam”
http://zdnet.com.au/newstech/ebusiness/story/0,2000024981,20264888,00.htm

” …

Internet Name Group has been implicated in a mass mail-out marketing scheme that has come under the scrutiny of domain registry authorities in New Zealand.

… “

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