Get Qualified Australia Pty Ltd, known as ‘Get Qualified Australia’ or ‘GQA’ was, up until recently, a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) company that assisted job seekers in turning their on-the-job experience into a qualification in industries ranging from the automotive industry to business and beauty. It described itself as ‘Australia’s leading Skills Recognition & Recognition of Prior Learning Specialist’.
THE STORY SO FAR
Late last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) successfully obtained an asset freezing order (pending further legal action by the ACCC) in the Federal Court of Australia against Get Qualified Australia, GQA’s sole director and shareholder, Adam Wadi, and Mr Wadi’s spouse, Lama Al-Natour. The ACCC then filed substantive legal proceedings against Get Qualified Australia and Mr Wadi, alleging:
- misleading or deceptive conduct in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law 2010 (ACL);
- false or misleading representations in contravention of the ACL;
- unconscionable conduct in contravention of the ACL;
- contravention of the unsolicited consumer agreement division of the ACL;
- unfair contract terms under the ACL.
Specifically in respect of Mr Wadi, the ACCC alleged that he ‘aided, abetted, counselled or procured and was directly and indirectly knowingly concerned in each of GQA’s contraventions of the ACL’.
GQA has now declared that it is unable to pay its debts and is now in liquidation. It has left thousands of students who were in the middle of obtaining their qualifications after having paid fees to GQA, as well as many students who were already claiming refunds from GQA. A creditors’ report revealed that the company owed over $1.5 million to creditors including Facebook and Google AdWords. Blair Pleash of insolvency firm Hall Chadwick has been appointed as the liquidator for GQA and has said that it was “not looking good” for customers and creditors as the company itself did not have a large amount of finances in their bank. The creditors report revealed that GQA has only $1,600 in cash in its bank account and an apparently overstated $210,012 in plant and equipment. It has been reported that, up until shortly before Mr Pleash’s appointment as liquidator, GQA staff members were still contacting clients advising that they had established a whole new service team and requesting the payment of fees.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training sector. They regulate courses and training providers to ensure nationally approved quality standards are met. GQA is not itself a registered training organization (RTO), In March, the cancellation of RTOs owned or operated by GQA and Mr Wadi by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) was confirmed by the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Those cancelled RTOs were Get Qualified Australia Adelaide, Get Qualified Australia Canberra and Get Qualified Australia Brisbane.
The ACCC claims that GQA call centre sales staff were motivated by their sales targets. It was alleged that consumers were advised and assured that they were eligible for qualifications by sales representatives who had no idea whether or not the consumer was eligible or not.
Numerous consumers were signed up, charged fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars and then GQA never communicated with them again and their much sought after qualification was never acquired. Staff members of GQA pressured consumers for upfront payments before they could reveal any information regarding how they could go about gaining their qualification.
The ACCC also alleges that the company itself had a “money back guarantee” in where consumers were promised their money back if they didn’t receive their qualification but the company almost always declined refund requested when consumers did not receive their qualification.
Recently, the Federal Court heard the ACCC’s claim, in which it seeks orders for consumer refunds, monetary penalties, declarations, injunctions, orders for corrective publication, the implementation of a trade practices compliance program, and legal costs. However the likelihood of this occurring is low as GQA is now in liquidation. The ACCC also seeks orders against Mr Wadi disqualifying him from managing corporations.
Alongside the legal action being taken against GQA by the ACCC, Qualify Me! has also taken legal action against GQA for trademark infringement and misleading and deceptive conduct.
As a result of the legal case the ACCC has brought against GQA and GQA’s collapse into liquidation, we have received a large number of student enquiries requesting support in achieving their desired qualifications. We are very concerned for students who have already paid for qualification services and prepared all or a substantial part of the required evidence, yet are now faced with having to pay for the full RPL process again.
The Qualify Me! Team have finalised a tailored model of their RPL & Skills Recognition programs that is designed to allow ex-GQA clients to continue their RPL process with Qualify Me!, saving them both time and money compared with the alternative of having to start from scratch and pay again in full. There are still some challenges in such a model, for example our evidence collection criteria is aligned closely with industry and performance criteria as per the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) standards and may therefore differ to what was requested of them prior.
Students who have been impacted should try the Qualify Me! Free Skills Assessment to get started on our program. Unfortunately, we may not be able to service all students as we have become aware that a number of students previously on GQAs books do not meet our RPL Program entry criteria. Students who do not qualify for our RPL program, have the option to undertake suitable nationally accredited vocational courses.
Our management team empathise with the number of students involved and would like to do our part for the industry. To date, we have already established a dedicated student support team to cater for the high demand of applicants coming across. This student support team is there to only work with those students who have been affected by GQA and with this comes several benefits, some of which include quick one-on-one service, supporting you when needed and ensuring faster processing time. Students impacted by GQA’s liquidation have been offered discounts, in some cases below cost, as a step forward in fulfilling our corporate social responsibility.
Make the switch! Let Qualify Me, Qualify You!