Civil proceedings have been instituted against employment relations company Employsure Pty Ltd for allegedly misleading small business consumers that it was, or was affiliated with government agencies (the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Fair Work Commission), when that was not the case.
It is also alleged that Employsure represented to consumers that it provided a helpline for free workplace relations advice, when the primary function of that helpline was to secure marketing leads to sell its service. The Federal Court will hear the case this month.
The ACCC alleges Employsure advertisements represented themselves until late last year as "Fair Work Ombudsman Help - free 24/7 employer advice" and "Fair Work Commission Advice - free employer advice" and referred potential customers to domains such as fairworkhelp.com.au, employersupport.com.au and employerline.com.au
Employsure allegedly lured businesses with the promise of free IR advice and then used "high pressure sales tactics" to encourage them to sign long-term service contracts worth thousands of dollars a year.
When people called, they reached Employsure business sales consultants, who had no training in IR, but were experienced in telemarketing. According to the ACCC, Employsure’s "main objective" was to sign the small business operator up to "a long term standard contract on that same day". The ACCC says that it will also pursue Employsure for its alleged unconscionable conduct in its dealings with some small business operators, who signed multi-year contracts worth thousands of dollars a year.
The ACCC will allege these contracts contained unfair terms that increased prices unilaterally on automatic renewal, failed to provide for early termination and penalised customers who failed to pay instalments on-time by making the full contract payment due immediately.
Refer to our related eNews article of July 2018 when the Supreme Court of NSW found an Employsure contract clause constituted an unenforceable "penalty" and was designed to "coerce performance" of the terms of the contract.
The ACCC says Employsure contracted employers "for lengthy periods to pay for services they had not sought and did not need, many of which were available free of charge from other providers, including the FWO itself".
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, consumer redress orders for four small businesses, corrective publication and compliance orders, and costs.
NECA WA members are reminded that they can obtain free IR advice from NECA Legal.
ACCC v Employsure Pty Ltd ACN 145 676, NSD2384/2018
Disclaimer: The above summary is not legal advice and for more information on employment law and IR, call NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on 6241 6129 or email firstname.lastname@example.org