The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against four publishing companies and their sole director for alleged misrepresentations and harassment.
The ACCC court proceedings are against:
- Exclusive Media & Publishing Pty Ltd
- Elite Publishing Group Pty Ltd
- Wiltshire Publishers Pty Ltd
- Superior Publications Pty Ltd, and
- the sole director Mr Andrew Clifford.
The ACCC alleges the companies offered mostly small businesses the opportunity to take out advertisements in the companies' community magazines at a cost of around $500. The companies represented that 500 copies of the magazines would be distributed to various organisations. The ACCC alleges the companies never intended to and never did distribute 500 copies of any of their magazines as represented.
The ACCC claims the companies invited businesses to sign a document in order to receive complimentary copies of the magazines. The ACCC alleges that after the businesses signed and returned those documents, the publishing companies claimed that they had in fact agreed to buy advertising services, for which they demanded payment.
It is also alleged that the companies used harassment, coercion and acted unconscionably when pursuing those payments from some businesses. The conduct allegedly included threatening legal proceedings against the businesses if they did not pay or representing that legal action had already commenced when in fact it had not.
The ACCC is seeking:
- declarations that the conduct of the companies contravened various sections of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and that Mr Clifford was knowingly concerned in the contraventions;
- injunctions restraining Mr Clifford and the companies from engaging in similar conduct in the future;
- an order disqualifying Mr Clifford from managing corporations, and
- pecuniary penalties.