One of Australia’s biggest private training providers vows to improve on “unconscionable conduct”
May 19, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Private training provider Careers Australia has avoided prosecution after repaying $44.3 million in taxpayer dollars and admitting it made “false and misleading” statements to lure students onto courses.
The company has admitted that it breached Australian consumer law and "engaged in unconscionable conduct" when it offered inducements such as iPads and laptops to persuade vulnerable Australians to sign up for courses.
Among them were 80 members of a remote Aboriginal community in Yarrabah, Queensland who, according to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s chairman Rod Sims, were “offered inducements to sign up but not alerted to the debts they would incur”.
Mr Sims said the actions of Careers Australia impacted on “some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of consumers”.
”It is also unacceptable that significant Commonwealth money went to fund courses that were often not undertaken,” he said.
A court-enforced ruling on Monday allowed Careers Australia to avoid prosecution in the Federal Court but compelled the company to cancel the enrolments of all students who have not completed a unit of study, and to repay any Government funding received as a result of those enrolments.
Between August 1, 2013 and March 31, 2015, Careers Australia received and processed applications from about 40,000 students.
Around half were enrolled and the provider received about $190 million in loan payments from the Government for their education.
Careers Australia has since cancelled 12,130 of those enrolments and either repaid or partially repaid $44.3 million to the Government, including cancellations made in the course of the ACCC investigation.
The company is the fifth private provider pursued this year by the ACCC as the commonwealth seeks to claw back more than $500 million paid out through student loans.
Unique, Empower, AIPE, and the Phoenix Institute all face legal action over dubious recruitment practices.
Careers Australia agreed on Monday to invite all current students to “approach them should they want to have their enrolment and debt cancelled” and committed to implement an Australian Consumer Law compliance program, including training for staff and regular reviews.
It has also guaranteed not engage in future “conduct of concern”.
Mr Sims said: “The ACCC acknowledges that Careers Australia cooperated with our investigation and worked to address the problems, which is why we have accepted the undertaking rather than taking court action.
The ACCC will continue to investigate the education sector and take appropriate action to ensure consumers are not misled about the nature of courses and the debts they will incur.”