NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe is warning consumers on the NSW mid-north coast and across the state to do their research before signing up to training courses or accepting offers of free computers from cold calling marketers.
At the recent Taree NAIDOC Day consumers advised NSW Fair Trading officers about marketers going door-to-door in the Purfleet Indigenous community with promises of free iPads or laptops.
Earlier this month three car loads of marketers were seen signing up Purfleet consumers to training courses.
NSW Fair Trading is calling on consumers who signed up in Purfleet and in any other places where door-to-door marketing has occurred to act fast to check the terms and conditions in any contracts they received.
If you aren’t interested in completing the course, look for any mention of a census date or cooling-off period that allows you to cancel in writing without incurring debt.
Consumers who sign up during door-to-door marketing are automatically entitled to cancel consumer contracts within a 10 day cooling-off period under the Australian Consumer Law.
Consumers who didn’t receive any contract documents or who are concerned they might have been misled into signing up for a loan should contact NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20 to get more information about their cancellation rights.
Indigenous consumers can phone Fair Trading on a dedicated line - 1800 500 330.
Similar marketing occurred in the Moree area in May, with consumers asked to provide their tax file numbers.
NSW Fair Trading has received reports of a small number of training providers and marketers promoting diploma courses by misleading consumers into signing up to student loans worth tens of thousands of dollars through the Commonwealth government’s VET FEE-HELP assistance scheme.
On 1 April 2015 the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training announced a ban on incentives like free iPads and laptops to market VET FEE-HELP courses.
Students carry the debt on their loans for many years, whether or not they complete the course.
The loans increase over time, limit people’s ability to borrow money and need to be repaid when one’s income is above a certain threshold.
Some consumers are not told there are conditions attached to the offer of a free laptop or iPad.
Often, they are only on loan to the student until the student completes the course or until it is too late for the student to cancel the loan.
Some students who have signed up to similar offers in the past never received their promised laptop or iPad.
Misleading marketing is illegal under the Australian Consumer Law and can attract penalties of up to $1.1million.
NSW Fair Trading and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission are jointly investigating complaints about misleading marketing of courses and loans to vulnerable consumers across NSW.
Consumers and community workers can report illegal marketing to Fair Trading by phoning 13 32 20.
Complaints can also be lodged on the Fair Trading website or in person at any Service NSW Service Centre.
Community workers and organisations can help educate their clients and communities about the risks of door-to-door marketing and signing up to courses where free computers are an incentive.
Posters, brochures and fact sheets from Fair Trading’s ‘A free gift could cost you thousands’ education campaign can be downloaded from Fair Trading’s website.
Training providers and marketers can download a new fact sheet from Fair Trading’s website that explains their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.
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