Consumer Affairs Finds Tabcorp in Breach of Fair Trading Act - Consumer Protection Needed Says AAGM

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Action Against Gaming Machines (AAGM) have discovered that Tabcorp HoldingsÂ? poker machine practices have been found to be in breach of the Fair Trading Act by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV). The Compliance and Enforcement Branch of CAV has issued a strong warning to the gambling monolith stating they expect them to comply with the law.

Tabcorp breach the act by not providing receipts to consumers for purchases of gaming machine credits. The CAV decision emphasises the fact that gaming machine operators in every state of Australia are operating illegally by not providing receipts to consumers, and are now open to prosecution.

CAV clearly worded statement said “…while it may be logistically difficult for Tabcorp (along with analogous service providers like public telephones and confectionary vending machines) to provide receipts on request, it’s the law and we expect them to comply.”

Lana O’Shanassy, leader of the Action Against Gaming Machines (AAGM) class action said “We now have the consumer protection authority in one state of Australia who agree that gaming machine operators are bound by Consumer Protection Laws. These same laws apply right throughout Australia, not just in Victoria, and this is a clear breach of our rights as a consumer.”

“This issue also highlights the fact that Australians who receive government benefits along with the average tax payer do not (and have been unable to) declare their actual level of spending on gaming machines and their cash profits as a form of income which would have major implications to government revenue and benefit entitlements.”

“Gaming machine operators spend millions marketing their products to the consumer, now they are finally being forced to abide by Consumer Protection Laws like any other provider of a consumer product in this country.”

“I urge consumer protection authorities in all other states of Australia to follow the action taken by Consumer Affairs Victoria and to prosecute gaming machine operators who take advantage of Australian consumers without regard to the harmful effects this breach and all of their other breaches of our Laws of Australia have had on our communities.”

“I anticipate that these breaches will be fully investigated by our courts in due course, however Consumer Protection Laws are in place for a reason and it is the duty of our government to investigate those who are known to have acted illegally as and when allegations are made. It is in their best interest to do so at this time.”

The CAV found that TABCORP breached section 161a of the Fair Trading Act.

Section 161a of the Fair Trading Act, Victoria states that all consumers of a product or service must receive a receipt for spending over $50.00. Consumers who spend less than $50.00 must be provided with a written receipt for purchase if the consumer asks for this receipt.

When commenting on whether the class action group believe that action will be taken by other consumer protection authorities, Lana O’Shanassy said “we believe the government will attempt to make this Consumer Protection Law exempt to gaming machine operators through a change in legislation, even though systems are currently available and have been for many years that enable operators to abide by these laws.”

“The anticipated reaction by our government is evidenced by the fact that they are attempting to change gaming machine legislation to make manufacturers, operators, clubs, hotels, casinos and the Crown themselves exempt from providing a minimum dollar return to players – as legislation is currently written and was intended.”

A discussion paper issued by the NSW Department of Gaming and Racing in November 2004 proposes that legislation be changed so that machines must be programmed to return a theoretical percentage of money to players, instead of what is actually returned to players, the practical return.

Lana O’Shanassy comments “the change is proposed because again, the gaming machine industry are in breach of Consumer and Fair Trading Laws, they are operating illegally as gaming machines have never achieved the required minimum return to players.”

“We are confident that regardless of whether or not legislation is changed, we have a cause of action and strong legal arguments to make the gaming machine industry responsible for their actions over the many devastating years to the consumer since the introduction of gaming machines.”

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Lana O'shanassy
AAGM
61-2-48723911
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