I welcome the Federal Court’s judgement today that Acquire, in relation to selected students, engaged in conduct that was unconscionable, made false or misleading representations and failed to comply with the provisions of the Australian Consumer Law relating to unsolicited consumer agreements.
This reinforces the Turnbull Government’s strong approach to fix Labor’s failed VET FEE-HELP scheme with a new program, VET Student Loans, that sets a higher bar for entry for providers, limits loans to courses with strong industry links and employment outcomes, and caps the amount that students can borrow to stop the blow-out in fees.
Dodgy providers are on notice – the Turnbull Government and regulators are backing students and shutting unscrupulous training providers out of the system.
The Federal Court ordered that Acquire pay a pecuniary penalty of $4.5 million for misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct. Acquire has also agreed to pay $100,000 towards the ACCC’s costs of the proceeding. Acquire Learning is in administration.
The key findings against Acquire are that, in relation to the eight consumers who formed the basis of the ACCC’s case against Acquire, Acquire:
• failed to comply with the provisions of the Australian Consumer Law relating to unsolicited consumer agreements;
• engaged in conduct that was unconscionable; and
• engaged in the false, misleading or deceptive conduct.
Today’s result is the latest chapter in the sorry saga of Labor’s failed VET FEE-HELP scheme.
The new safeguards we’ve put in place through our VET Student Loans program mean students can have confidence that the training they are receiving is aligned to workplace needs and strong employment outcomes, and is being delivered by training providers who have met the tougher benchmarks we have set. At the same time, taxpayers can have confidence the loans the Government is providing are for genuine students, learning skills that will contribute to the economy and increasing the likelihood the loans will be repaid.
VET Student Loans recognises the importance of high-quality vocational education providers and the new program will ensure they can continue to deliver for current and future generations of students.
The Turnbull Government put in place 20 measures over 2015 and 2016 to boost protections for students and in addition to our stronger VET Student Loans program, the VET Ombudsman we are introducing from 1 July 2017 will be able to investigate and resolve student complaints and concerns about compliance issues of training organisations.
Students with concerns about their VET FEE-HELP debts may also raise a complaint directly with their provider through its formal complaints handling process, including to request debts be remitted or cancelled.
Any VET student with a concern about their student loan can also contact the Department of Education and Training on 1800 020 108.