False Government Endorsements In ACCC’s Sights

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will be undertaking its annual internet sweep, this year concentrating on local websites that mislead consumers into believing that the websites have government endorsement or support.

“The ACCC will be looking closely at sites that charge a fee for accessing government services such as government grants and immigration services,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mr Peter Kell said. “A consumer or business could be charged hundreds of dollars for a service that is freely available from an official website.”

The ACCC will join over 40 members of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) for the 13th annual internet sweep.

“Together we intend to make the 13th sweep unlucky for online traders that are breaching the law – no matter where they are,” Kell said.

The websites may have carefully chosen web addresses, copied logos or trust marks or use key words throughout the website that imply a relationship with government.

Some simple tips to avoid getting caught:

  • Most Australian government websites use the '.gov.au' extension – never .org, .net or .com
  • Government services are never paid via wire transfer
  • www.australia.gov.au is a safe portal for finding government services, including travel, tax and grants, and will help to avoid unauthorised third party providers
  • If you want to use a third party service check out who you are dealing with and what the industry requires in the first instance from an independent source and read all the terms and conditions
  • Be wary of misused trust marks, logos, seals of approval – they may just be copies and not the real thing