The University of Sydney AIPE has been hit with the biggest fine ever imposed under Australia’s consumer law.

A Sydney training center has been hit with the biggest fine ever imposed under Australia’s consumer law after “misleading vulnerable and disadvantaged students” into believing their classes were free.

The Federal Court ordered the Australian Institute of Professional Education Pty Ltd (AIPE) to pay $ 153 million in penalties after being found guilty of “unreasonable, deceptive or deceptive” behavior.

In 2019, it was discovered that the college misled students by telling them that their classes were free despite the students accumulating VET FEE-HELP debts of up to $ 20,000. He also encouraged potential students to enroll in online degree courses by offering “free” laptops.

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The college has enrolled up to 16,000 students and received $ 210 million from the Commonwealth between May 2013 and December 2015 for student enrollment under the VET FEE-HELP program.

At least 70 percent of CCI registrations during this period were affected by deceptive conduct.

A training college in Sydney has been hit with the biggest fine ever imposed under Australian consumer law after
A training college in Sydney has been hit with the biggest fine ever imposed under Australian consumer law after “misleading vulnerable and disadvantaged students”. Image: image file

Federal Court Judge Robert Bromwich imposed penalties of $ 150 million for systemic unreasonable conduct and $ 3 million for contraventions of 12 individual clients.

Proceedings were brought against CCI in 2016 following a joint investigation by ACCC and NSW Fair Trading, with the college being put into liquidation shortly thereafter.

The establishment being in liquidation, the penalties will not be paid.

“Significant penalties are imposed when a business enterprise systematically predates both a government education support program designed to help disadvantaged members of the Australian community and, therefore, those consumers,” said the Judge Bromwich.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said the fines were the highest total amount ever imposed under Australia’s Consumer Law.

The college was found to have misled students by telling them that their classes were free.  Image: image file.
The college was found to have misled students by telling them that their classes were free. Image: image file.

“This reflects the appalling conduct of CCI and the substantial benefits it has derived from this conduct,” he said.

“The magnitude of these penalties should serve as an important warning to all Australian businesses that there can be very serious consequences for those who choose to engage in deceptive and unreasonable conduct.”

Mr Sims said many of the students who enrolled had limited reading and writing skills and could not use computers.

However, they were tricked into signing up for online courses that they “were unlikely to complete, but left them in heavy debt for life.”

This is not the first time CCI has come under criticism, having already been ordered to repay $ 142 million in compensation it should not have received.

“We support the continued work of the Commonwealth to write off the debts of these students,” said Mr. Sims.

“Because CCI is in liquidation, the penalty will not be paid, but the penalties imposed nonetheless constitute an important benchmark for future business and will serve to deter other similar behavior. “

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