The Australian Unique International College has been found guilty by the Federal Court for engaging in unconscionable conduct, after defrauding students into enrolling in misleading courses costing up to $25,000, according to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.
The decision was handed down by the Australian Federal Court today, June 30.
Unique’s conduct involved selling VET FEE-HELP diploma courses that ranged in price from $10,000 to $25,000. The Unique sales team conducted door-to-door sales tactics that deliberately targeted illiterate people in remote communities. Such communities were often vulnerable and disadvantaged, leaving them susceptible to falling for the idea of free college.
The fraudulent education institution enrolled Australians, who often did not even know they were being signed up, and misled these victims into thinking the course was free. In reality, these vulnerable people were signing up for significant debts that ranged all the way up to $25,000 per course.
“The Court found that Unique’s marketing deliberately targeted people from disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, including regional Aboriginal communities,” stated Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims.
The Federal Court also discovered that Unique International College was using gifts such as laptops and iPads to entice the defrauded students into enrolling in the VET FEE-HELP courses.
In the court’s words, the purpose of the gift’s was to “supercharge the exploitation of the disadvantaged group that was being targeted (and also Unique’s remarkable profits)”.
The ACCC is now looking to to reimburse those defrauded Australians by eliminating all enrollments and incurred debts. Both the ACCC and the Department of Education are looking for the funds for repayment to come from the Australian government.
“Our focus is now on ensuring that the affected consumers will not remain in debt because of Unique’s exploitative behaviour,” said Mr. Sims.
Last year, both the ACCC and the Australian government took joint legal action against Unique International College after an investigation found that Unique enrolled more than 3,600 students in their phony VET FEE-HELP diploma courses and was given a handsome sum of $57 million by the Commonwealth of Australia for said enrollments.
It seems that education-related schemes have become a transcontinental theme. Last month, LendEDU reported on the fraudulent for-profit Corinthian Colleges. That institution schemed students through false promises of career success and inflated graduate employment numbers. After many students felt rightfully defrauded while also incurring huge debt, the U.S. Department of Education discharged many of their federal student loans. The Corinthian Colleges have since closed their doors.
Author: Mike Brown
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