The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a public warning notice about the alleged conduct of Dismissals Direct Pty Ltd, trading as Unfair Dismissals Direct.
The company represented employees in unfair dismissal claims before the Fair Work Commission until earlier this year. John Bingham is the sole director of Unfair Dismissals Direct.
Unfair Dismissals Direct website purports not to offer legal services, but acts as a paid agent on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, deducting its fees from any final settlement for clients.
From May 2018, the ACCC received complaints about Unfair Dismissals Direct, including from 18 consumers around Australia who complained that Unfair Dismissals Direct did not pay them their settlement monies, minus its fees, after their unfair dismissal claim was settled.
The ACCC has announced it has reasonable grounds to suspect that Unfair Dismissals Direct may have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, and made false or misleading representations, by telling consumers that it would receive settlement monies on their behalf, deduct its professional fee and transfer the remaining balance to the client when, in some instances, Unfair Dismissals Direct kept the remaining balance.
Unfair Dismissals Direct advertised its services online and offered potential clients a ‘free confidential assessment’. Their contract with clients outlined fees which were to be deducted from any settlement paid into the companies’ accounts after successful conclusion of their claim.
“We are very concerned that it appears some clients of Unfair Dismissals Direct, who were at a low point in their lives after losing their job were not paid the settlement balance owing to them,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“We are warning Australian consumers seeking representation for unfair dismissal claims to choose their representatives carefully.
“Consumers should do their research before signing any contract, including for unfair dismissal services. If a business is trying to pressure you into signing a contract quickly, without ample opportunity to review the contract, ask yourself why.”
The public warning notice has been issued because the ACCC has reasonable grounds to suspect that the conduct by Unfair Dismissals Direct may constitute a contravention of sections 18 and/or 29 of the Australian Consumer Law, and the ACCC is satisfied that consumers have suffered detriment and it is in the public interest to issue the notice.