The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) action follows complaints from businesses which use postage meters, also known as franking machines, and which had been contacted by Postage Ink in respect of unsolicited sales or payments.
In issuing the public warning notice (PDF link) the ACCC says it has “reasonable grounds to suspect that Postage Ink’s conduct in engaging in the supply of unsolicited goods by sending postage meter ink cartridges to businesses which had not ordered them, and subsequently seeking payment for the ink cartridges and other consumables for their postage meter, may breach the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
“The ACCC also has reasonable grounds to suspect that representatives of Postage Ink contacted various businesses and, in breach of the ACL, falsely represented that Postage Ink had an ongoing supply relationship with them, leading their staff to place orders with Postage Ink.”
“We have issued this public warning notice to alert businesses about the alleged conduct by Postage Ink, and to encourage all businesses using postage meters to put measures in place to protect themselves from similar conduct,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“If you receive goods that you did not order, you do not have to pay for them and, if the sender does not collect the goods within three months, you can keep them or dispose of them without having to pay for them.
“Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses must not engage in false, misleading or deceptive conduct, or assert a right to payment when they know they have no right to do so,” Rickard added.
“The ACCC recommends that all businesses using postage meters alert their administrative staff to the possibility of unsolicited sales calls, the supply of items that were not ordered and false invoicing for postage meter supplies; and post a copy of the ACCC’s warning notice where those staff can see it.”
The Public Warning Notice (PDF link) has been issued because the ACCC has reasonable grounds to suspect that Postage Ink’s conduct may constitute a contravention of sections 18, 29 and/or 40 of the ACL; is satisfied that one or more business has suffered or is likely to suffer detriment as a result of the conduct; and is satisfied that it is in the public interest to issue the notice.
The Australian website for PostageInk now comes up with the following error message: “If you are viewing this page it is possible the domain name your are viewing is resolving to an incorrect address or that Host header bindings have not been added to your website. If you are the administrator of the site please, please log into your account management portal to correct.”
The US Postage Ink company does not appear to be linked in any way to the Australian site, and in any case, services US customers only.
Postage Ink is a business registered in NSW and Mr Majed Homsi is its sole director.
ACCC’s advice for businesses on how to protect themselves:
- Look closely at invoices before making payment to confirm that amounts and payee details match the purchase order and that none of the details have changed.
- Make sure staff are aware of internal processes for ordering supplies, including purchasing approval, and that your staff know what invoicing scams to look out for.
- Know your rights and obligations with respect to unsolicited goods.
- Print a copy of the public warning notice and place it near where reception and purchasing staff can see it.
- For more advice about how small businesses can protect themselves from scams go to the ScamWatch site.
- Postage meters or franking machines are used to apply a printed ‘indicium’ in place of a postage stamp. They are used by businesses to enable postage of mail without the need to use pre-paid stamps or envelopes, or go to the post office, and, like an ordinary printer, require periodic replacement of ink cartridges.
- Nearly 5000 businesses in Australia use postage meters, including many in finance, insurance, legal and professional services, hospitality and retail.
- Postage meters are regulated by Australia Post, which sets the conditions of use in the Postage Meter Standard.