The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a public warning about the conduct of Australian Business Funding Centre Pty Ltd (also known as Australian Business Financing Centre or ABFC) which operates the website www.australiangovernmentgrants.org.
The ACCC alleges that the ABFC website, and its sales representatives, purport to offer access to an online database of the Australian government grants and loans available to small businesses.
Small business owners paid fees ranging from $497 to $701 to access the database, only to find there were no suitable grants or that they were ineligible for grants listed.
The warning alleges ABFC has made false or misleading representations about the service’s capability and quality, and the role the service has played in assisting small businesses gain government grant funding.
The website also prominently features a range of “success stories” from Australian small businesses, but when those businesses were contacted by the ACCC, they said the stories were used without their permission and that they had not obtained any government funding via ABFC.
“The ACCC is issuing a warning in relation to ABFC’s conduct including its australiangovernmentgrants.org website. We are very concerned that small businesses are paying ABFC for a service that does not provide the information and assistance they are have paid for,” ACCC acting chair, Dr Michael Schaper, said.
Similar websites targeting small businesses in other countries have also come to the attention of regulatory authorities in New Zealand and Canada.
“Small businesses should take care when assessing offers to assist them in obtaining government grants. 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,” Dr Schaper said.
The ACCC says despite the website including an Australian address, it is operated by ABFC’s sole director who is based overseas.
Legitimate information about government grants can be obtained for free at www.business.gov.au(link is external)and other websites ending with .gov.au.
The public warning notice is available at: Australian Business Funding Centre Pty Ltd (also known as Australian Business Finance Centre or ABFC)