Small businesses have paid up to $700 to access non-existent Australian government grants spruiked on a website.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a public warning today (Monday) about the conduct of the Australian Business Funding Centre Pty Ltd, which also goes by the name Australia Business Financing Centre or ABFC and has a website www.australiangovernment.grants.org.
Despite the website using an Australian address, it is operated by ABFC’s sole director who is based overseas.
The ACCC has alleged that ABFC charged small businesses between $500 to $700 to access an online database of Australian government grants and loans but once they were given access to the database the grants evaporated or they were not eligible to apply.
The website, which is still up, proclaims: “Australian government money may be available for your small business.”
It says: “Take 45 seconds to learn how much money your small business may be able to receive in government grants and/or loans if you meet the criteria. While no one can guarantee you funding the more you know the better.”
The Commission claims that the company made false or misleading representations about its capability and quality, and the role it played in helping small businesses get government grant funding.
The website also prominently features a number of “success stories” from actual Australian small businesses but the Commission found out that the stories were used without the businesses’ permission and they had not obtained any government funding via ABFC.
ACCC Acting Chair Dr Michael Schaper said the Commission was very concerned that small businesses were paying ABFC for a service that did not help them access government grants.
“Small businesses should take care when assessing offers to assist them in obtaining government grants,” Dr Schaper said. “The bottom line is that information relating to government grants is generally available free of charge from a variety of state and federal resources online.”
He said there were similar websites targeting small businesses in other countries, which had come to the attention of regulatory authorities in New Zealand and Canada.
Small businesses can find free, legitimate information about government grants at www.business.gov.au(link is external) and other websites ending with .gov.au.
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