ACCC Takes Federal Court Action Against SoleNet And Sure Telecom
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has commenced Federal Court proceedings against corporations trading as SoleNet and Sure Telecom (the Harrison Companies) along with their director James Harrison over alleged breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The proceedings are against 11 corporations trading as SoleNet and Sure Telecom, with the ACCC “alleging unconscionable conduct in the supply of telecommunications services and undue harassment”, in breach of the ACL.
Various Harrison Companies have provided telecommunications services to residential and small businesses customers since 2011, with the ACCC alleging unconscionable conduct, including the ceasing of trading and winding up companies which incurred regulatory sanctions and unpaid debts to regulators, and purporting to transfer customer contracts from Harrison Companies which ceased trading to new Harrison Companies without customers’ knowledge or informed consent.
The ACCC alleges payment of early termination fees and cancellation fees from transferred customers was sought where the Harrison Company seeking the payment had no contractual right to payment.
Alleged debts were referred to a debt collection agency and law firm, each of which sent letters demanding the payment of early termination and cancellation fees pursuant to purported contracts between the “new” companies and transferred customers, the ACCC alleges, when the customers had not entered into contracts with the relevant “new” companies, with the engaging in undue harassment of transferred customers in relation to the payment of these alleged debts.
The ACCC additionally alleges Harrison was involved or knowingly concerned in the contraventions.
“The ACCC alleges that the conduct of Mr Harrison and the Harrison Companies was in all the circumstances unconscionable,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims stated.
“The ACCC’s case is that customers were not informed about, and did not consent to, their telecommunications contracts being transferred to other Harrison Companies, which the ACCC alleges was largely to avoid regulatory difficulties and debts.
“It is alleged that this conduct was then compounded by the Harrison Companies seeking to enforce early cancellation and termination fees which were not part of any contract between the consumer and that company, and harassing consumers for payment of these alleged debts.”
The ACCC, which has been assisted in its investigation by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and the Australian Communications and Media Authority, is seeking declarations, injunctions, consumer redress, penalties, corrective advertising, a disqualification order against Harrison and costs.