ATO says payroll company clients won’t be penalised for alleged fraud … ACCC takes NIB Australia to court … Could Amazon Go be heading to the UK?


By Dominic Powell and Emma Koehn.

The Australian Taxation Office has told clients of Plutus Payroll, the company allegedly implicated in a $165 million tax fraud scheme, they will not be penalised for unpaid tax.

In a notice released on Monday, the tax office said it understood “that sometimes workers and employers are affected by circumstances outside their control” and it would continue to assist clients who have had dealings with Plutus Payroll.

The ATO says no individual will be penalised if money was withheld from their pay by the company, but then never made its way to the tax office, because of the alleged scheme.

The ATO says it will continue to update its advice on the situation as it gets more information about the circumstances of affected individuals.

ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan has also announced a formal review of the tax office’s practices after news broke of deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston being charged with abusing the position of a public official, after his son Adam Cranston was one of the first people arrested for his alleged involvement in the scheme.

Appearing before Senate estimates this week, Jordan said the alleged wrongdoing uncovered by Operation Elbrus “struck at the heart and values” of ATO staff.

ACCC takes NIB Australia to court

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission commenced legal action against health insurance and private cover provider NIB Health Funds, alleging it engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by failing to notify members in advance around its decision to remove some procedures from its MediGap reimbursement scheme.

The ACCC alleges NIB told customers they would not pay out-of-pocket expenses on certain optical procedures under the scheme, where in reality this was not the case. The consumer watchdog has initiated proceedings in the Federal Court and will be seeking pecuniary penalties, injunctions and compliance program orders, as well as corrective notices and costs.

“Consumers have a right to be informed of important changes to their insurance cover in advance, as these changes can result in very large financial consequences at a time when consumers are at their most vulnerable,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

“Private health insurers must ensure their disclosure practices are in line with the Australian Consumer Law. Insurers should not expect consumers to bear the responsibility of making independent enquiries to find out about important changes made unilaterally by insurers.”

In response, NIB said it rejects the allegations made by the ACCC, and claims it acted  “lawfully and ethically”.

“nib has worked collaboratively with the ACCC throughout its investigation and has already taken steps to redress many ACCC concerns,” the company said in a statement.

“nib is committed to acting in the best interests of our customers and will strenuously defend the claims made by the ACCC in the Federal Court.”

Amazon registers UK trademarks for no-checkout supermarket

The UK’s trademark office has approved trademarks for Amazon’s ambitious no-checkout supermarket concept Amazon Go, sparking speculation about if the retailing giant could be rolling the stores out beyond Seattle in the US.

Bloomberg reports the UK trademark office approved Amazon’s applications for trademarks on slogans “No Lines. No Checkout. (No, Seriously.)” and “No Queue. No Checkout. (No, Seriously.).” Similar trademarks are reportedly pending in the European Union’s trademark office.

The futuristic store was unveiled in early December last year, showing a supermarket where shoppers can grab whatever they want and simply walk out of the store, with purchases automatically charged to their Amazon account.

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