In a case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Federal Court has declared Australialink acted unconscionably and engaged in conduct likely to mislead or deceive businesses.

Australialink, a Gold Coast publisher of several online business directories, deceptively targeted SMEs with its service. It sent businesses ‘Listing Advice Notices’ which gave the impression the businesses had sought the services of, or had an existing relationship with, Australialink. If businesses signed the notice, they’d be invoiced for $195, plus GST. The company sent out more than a million directory requests per year.

The Federal Court found that the documents were likely to mislead businesses and that the company acted unconscionably in demanding payment for these services. The court also declared the company, director Rachel Dargie and general manager Desmond O’Keefe had acted unconscionably by intentionally misrepresenting that it had instituted court proceedings against businesses that had not paid the unsolicited invoice.

Some companies design these requests to slip under the radar of businesses that dont realise what they are really signing up for. They are misled into thinking that they have previously requested the product or service or that they will not be charged for confirming their details. Often businesses arent aware they have been misled until they receive a bill in the mail, said Peter Kell, acting ACCC chairman.

This is a great result for small businesses that are constantly flooded with unsolicited requests to sign up for directories or advertising.