A FITNESS club has become the first Australian business to pay a fine for making a false claim about the carbon tax.
GFC Berwick, trading as Genesis Fitness Club, paid $6600 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as penalty for sending a letter to its members in April promoting a “rate freeze” offer.
The fitness club said that by taking up the offer, members could avoid a fee increase of nine to 15 per cent because of the carbon price.
More than 200 members took up the offer and extended their contracts.
“This raised concerns for the ACCC as the representation enticed members to sign lengthy contract extensions on the basis of false claims about the impact of carbon pricing,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims told a small-business conference in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“When approached, the fitness club could not provide any information that provided a reasonable basis for the claims made.”
Mr Sims said the company’s CEO had written to all affected members offering them the opportunity to withdraw from the contract extensions at no cost.
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury told reporters in Sydney the case was a timely reminder to consumers and businesses.
“We are concerned to hear of any instances where false claims are being made in relation to the carbon price,” he said.
“But we have strong confidence … in the ACCC, in their capacities in pursuing these matters.”
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said the action was appropriate.
“I think we saw this through the implementation of the GST – there is a general warning to the community to watch out for anybody who’s doing the wrong thing and not simply take some of these claims at face value,” Mr Baillieu told reporters in Melbourne.
In July, the ACCC began looking into an internal newsletter sent to Brumby’s bakery chain franchisees, suggesting they raise prices and “let the carbon tax take the blame”.
Mr Sims said the ACCC had received just over 2000 complaints over claims about the carbon price over the past 13 months.
Most had related to the energy, landfill, refrigerant, and building and construction sectors.
“For the most part, businesses understand their obligations and have performed very well when making claims about price increases attributed to the carbon price,” Mr Sims said.[youtube height=”400″ width=”550″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrkzysfZJQc[/youtube]