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Tuesday, 28 February 2006 19:26

ACCC wins $3.5M compensation for phone card scam victims

As the result of a legal action brought by the ACCC, the Federal Court has ordered that 23 small businesses receive compensation totalling more than $3.5 million from pre-paid phone card providers, Global Pre Paid Communications Pty Ltd and In-Touch Networks Pty Ltd and the companies' representatives.

The ACCC initiated the action in April 2003, alleging that Global Pre Paid and In-Touch had misled the businesses about the profitability and operations of pre-paid phone card and vending machine distributorships.

Justice Gyles found that Global Pre Paid and In-Touch and representatives - Nicholas Yates, Frank Yates, Nicholas Rhodin, Russell Fielding and Daniel Albert - had repeatedly engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct when dealing with the small business investors. In addition to the $3.5 million compensation, they were also ordered to pay the ACCC's costs.

According to the ACCC, the conduct began in 2001 when Global Pre Paid began advertising phone card vending machine franchises and exclusive distributorships for various machine locations. Global Pre Paid and In-Touch also advertised for exclusive distributors of 'GSM Global easyRoam' cards, claiming that phone card users could call anywhere in the world for the price of a local call and could 'roam' on various telephone networks when using the cards overseas. The advertisements represented that distributors of cards and purchasers of machines could earn huge profits, up to "$1,500,000 per year".

The ACCC says it was contacted by card and machine purchasers who had invested between $15,400 and $260,000 only to find that they could make little or no money from the businesses; that the vending machines and phone cards were faulty; and that the franchisor did not provide suitable locations for the machines.

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