The Federal Court has found Clinica Internationale Pty Ltd (Clinica) engaged in false and misleading representations and unconscionable conduct regarding training programs offered to migrants. Clinica claimed that its training programs would lead to migrants obtaining cleaning jobs, which would in turn meet the skills test to enable them to obtain permanent residency. Many of the participants were newly arrived migrants who needed to acquire permanent residency quickly in order to remain in Australia. Participants paid many thousands of dollars, some in excess of $10,000, to participate in the programs.
The court found that Clinica preyed on the vulnerability of migrants. Further, it found that Clinica did not have cleaning jobs available to those who completed its programs, and even if it did, those jobs would not have met the skills requirement necessary to obtain permanent residency. The court:
- fined Clinica $700,000;
- fined director/sole shareholder Radovan Laski $325,000 for being the ‘controlling mind’ and ‘knowingly concerned’ in the company’s conduct, and disqualified him from managing corporations for a period of five years;
- declared void each agreement between Clinica and course participants;
- issued permanent injunctions preventing both Clinica and Mr Laski from operating a business or providing services in relation to recruitment or employee placement for migrants;
- ordered Clinica to refund fees paid by participants (approximately $760,000).
Describing the conduct as ‘calculated and systematic’, Mortimer J stated ‘The way Clinica and Mr Laski preyed on the dreams of people about obtaining secure and long term residency and employment in Australia is one of the features of this scheme most deserving of the Court’s condemnation’.
ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, said that ‘Clinica’s clients were vulnerable and had significantly weaker bargaining power. They were induced to pay significant sums of money on the basis of false or misleading representations and unconscionable conduct. The Court’s decision to order refunds and award significant penalties reflects the serious nature of the conduct by Clinica and Mr Laski’.
Speaking further, Ms Rickard said ‘Consumer protection issues impacting on vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers, with a particular focus on consumers who are newly arrived in Australia, is a current enforcement and compliance priority for the ACCC.
Approximately 90 migrants were affected by Clinica’s activities.
Anyone who participated in a Clinica program and believes they are entitled to a refund are encouraged to contact the ACCC on 1300 302 502.