Acquire Learning fined $4.5 million … Gig economy in firing line in black economy fight … Myer and David Jones launch mid-season sales


By Dominic Powell and Emma Koehn. 

Collapsed vocational education provider Acquire Learning has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay a $4.5 million fine over claims it engaged in unconscionable conduct and breached Australian Consumer Law.

The ABC reports the company collapsed earlier this month, and at the time administrators said the company’s 40 employees would continue to be employed and the business would continue to operate. Acquire Learning’s assets include two training providers and a controlling stake in employment website CareerOne, according to The Australian

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took legal action against the company over its treatment of “vulnerable” students, with the court finding the business used unreasonable sales tactics to pressure customers to sign up to courses.

“Acquire took advantage of vulnerable consumers by using unfair sales tactics to pressure consumers to enrol in a vocational training course and apply for VET FEE-HELP assistance,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said in a statement.

“The deliberateness of the contravening conduct, its nature in targeting vulnerable people, the losses suffered by the Commonwealth, and Acquire’s status as a market leader, indicates a strong requirement for general and specific deterrence,” Justice Murphy said in the judgment.

“Its activities resembled those of an unscrupulous fly by night operation rather than those of a prominent and market leading provider of student recruitment services, as it describes itself.”

The $4.5 million fine is the second-largest consumer protection penalty secured by the ACCC in court.

SmartCompany contacted Acquire Learning’s administrators Cor Cordis but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Uber drivers warned by taskforce chair

The chair of the government’s “black economy” taskforce has said the sharing economy is in the crosshairs as the government attempts to tackle the estimated $50 billion revenue hole caused by businesses operating outside the tax system.

Michael Andrew has told The ABC the likes of Uber and Airbnb form a key part of the fight against lost tax dollars, reminding Australians that even if they’re only going into business for the first time, they must still be across their tax obligations.

“Every time you drive an Uber, it’s taxable income. Every time you do a job on Airtasker, it’s taxable income,” Andrew said.

The taskforce will deliver a final report to the government on the issue in October.

Winter woollies galore as Myer and DJs launch sales

The nation’s two biggest department stores are getting cracking on annual mid-season clearance sales in a bid to move autumn and winter stock in the face of tough retail sales numbers, reports Fairfax.

By the weekend both stores will be marking down homewares and apparel by up to 50%. While Myer’s deputy chief executive Daniel Bracken told Fairfax the company has a “disciplined” approached to markdowns across the year, the retailer continues to face challenges including the fallout from the collapse of the local franchise of Topshop and Topman, of which Myer owns a 20% stake.

The sales also come at a time of deep discounting from other fashion labels that have fallen on hard times this year, including fire sales of stock at collapsed brands Marcs and David Lawrence and Herringbone and Rhodes & Beckett. 

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