Members of northern rivers Aboriginal communities have been lured into suspect training courses with the offer of ‘free’ iPads or laptops, according to Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe.
He said indigenous communities from Grafton and Coffs Harbour to Moree and Goondiwindi had been targeted in the scam.
Mr Stowe said there was a statewide ban in inducements to encourage people to sign up to courses funded through the VET Fee Help scheme.
People have allegedly been told they did not need to complete a course to get the inducement and would never have to repay the loan. Some consumers were asked to provide their tax file numbers.
Spruikers were said to be helping consumers complete required language, literacy and numeracy tests. Some consumers were not told about conditions attached to the offer of a free laptop or iPad.
They are often only on loan to a student until a course is completed. Some students who have signed up to similar offers in the past never received their promised laptop or iPad.
Students carry debt on loans for many years whether or not they complete the course.
Misleading marketing is illegal under Australian consumer law and can attract penalties of up to $1.1million.
Anyone receiving such an offer is advised to carefully check the terms and conditions of the contract, a Fair Trading spokesperson said.
‘They should also look for any mention of a census date or cooling-off period that allows you to cancel in writing without incurring debt,’ the spokesperson added.
Consumers who sign up during door-to-door marketing are automatically entitled to cancel consumer contracts within a 10-day cooling-off period under the Australian Consumer Law.
‘If you didn’t receive any contract documents or are concerned you might have been misled into signing up for a loan you should call NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20 to get more information about your cancellation rights,’ the spokesperson said.
Complaints can be lodged at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au or in person at any Service NSW Centre.