An Australian employment agency has admitted to misleading job seekers for the embattled IT training company, Zanok Technologies, and agreed to a court-enforceable undertaking.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the South Australian-headquartered company, Australian Regional Employment Agencies (AREA), placed false job advertisements and targeted non-residents and international students.
It further alleges AREA’s national recruitment manager, Shreyas Narayana, actively interviewed applicants and made false claims on behalf of Zanok.
Earlier this year, Zanok was taken to the Federal Court by the ACCC and accused of breaching the Trade Practices Act (1974). The regulatory body alleges the company placed misleading ads that falsely promised applicants IT jobs after paying money for training.
“A significant number of applicants were temporary residents from India seeking employment in the IT industry,” a statement from the ACCC said.
AREA’s general manager, Ashley Hammond, apologised for the harm his company had caused and claimed the recruiter was itself mislead and struggling to stay afloat.
“We’ve cooperated totally with the ACCC on this and regret any wrongdoing or grief caused to the students. We were probably as big a victim as the students. We’re $30,000 or $40,000 out of pocket and never made a cent out of the venture,” he said.
Although AREA is not planning to provide money to any of the students, Hammond said the company would consider the move if its debt collection agencies were successful in extracting money allegedly owed by Zanok.
While he wouldn’t provide names and details, Hammond claimed AREA only entered into a partnership with Zanok after identifying several other companies with similar offerings.
“We separated ties when all this went pear-shaped and we were actually one of the initiators in contacting the ACCC," he said.
“The only research I did was to see whether other companies did do it and to see how reputable they were and they spoke about having Westpac contracts, which I believe they got.”
Under the terms of the admission of guilt, AREA has promised not to engage in “conduct that is likely to mislead persons seeking employment”, to make sure all ads placed by AREA are not misleadingly worded and are checked by its general manager, and to implement a trade practices compliance program.
ACCC proceedings against Zanok are ongoing and are listed for directions on August 20.