The Age yesterday and The Herald Sun this morning reported that 'The Victorian Tourism Centre' and it's sole director Stephen Glenister has finally faced prosecution in The Supreme Court.
The story states that the VTC "misled customers between 2007 and 2009". (To be more accurate, we first encountered them and wrote about them on the blog in 2006 and they were still ripping people off in Feb 2010.)
The story says that "1200 angry customers" called Consumer Affairs Victoria to complain. (I'd suggest there was a much larger number of people who simply didn't bother, as Consumer Affairs simply did nothing about it.)
But here's the most astonishing part of the story. Though it's clearly established that The Victorian Tourism Centre was selling discount accommodation vouchers to hotels who knew nothing about it (ie: a scam) they have not been prosecuted for that!
Stephen Glenister's biggest crime seems to have been that he falsely gained credibility "by claiming an association with the government". (How about all the solar panel telemarketers who claim they are calling on behalf of the Australian Government?)
Stephen Glenister's big punishment was that he was "banned from representing companies to be associated with or represented by the State government."
Back in 2008 we reported that he was forced to change his name from 'The Victorian Tourism Centre' to 'Make My Holidays'.
Seeing that he also runs The Getaways Group and several other companies selling the exact same fake voucher scam, I don't think this punishment even amounts to a slap on the wrist. Even when his business was physically shutdown in 2008, while he "pursued legal action against the government" he still continued to operate.
Oh, and he was also ordered to refund the money of 6 customers.
Out of 1,200 official complaints to Consumer Affairs Victoria. Ater reading CAV's own description of their role they seem to be failing miserably in this specific case.
Interestingly, searching the CAV's site I came up with this article. It seems that the court case reported in the papers today actually happened on Dec 9 last year! Why is it only just being reported now, over a month later?
ADVICE FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE BEEN RIPPED OFF BY VICTORIAN TOURISM CENTRE OR ANY OTHER TELEMARKETING SCAM - obviously it's pointless calling the ACCC, CAV, the police or trying to take them to court - this is pretty much your only course of action:
"Had a similar experience to some of you. I contacted consumer affairs (VIC) who told me that there is a standard cooling off period of 14 days which applies to tele-sales. If you are not notified of the cooling off period then you have an indefinite cooling off period. I returned my vouchers via registered post with a letter outling his breach, and detailing the number of times I had attempted to contact him. I also contacted my credit card provider who reversed the transaction. The onus was on him to try and prove that he was entitled to the money. I got my money back and never heard anything further. Same as Michelle I contacted the travel organisations he was supposedly dealing with and was also surprised to fund that some had cut ties. Every dog has its day."