Internet scammers face AU$1 million fine

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning Internet scammers of the price they have to pay for misleading users. More than 3200 Australian Internet sites are already under investigation by the ACCC as part of the International Internet Sweep together with consumer protection agencies from 24 countries.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning Internet scammers of the price they have to pay for misleading users. More than 3200 Australian Internet sites are already under investigation by the ACCC as part of the International Internet Sweep together with consumer protection agencies from 24 countries.

Louise Sylvan, ACCC deputy chair, says they cannot disclose the sites being investigated at the moment but assures that there will be serious consequences if proven guilty of Internet scamming. Up to an AU$1 million fine can be imposed, depending on the nature of the prosecution.

Sylvan says that although most of the Internet sites being scrutinised make outrageous claims of fast and easy money on the Internet, they are also investigating legitimate businesses who did not realise they are stepping over the mark. "Some of these Internet sites are not sharks, they are legitimate businesses that just didn't think about the boundaries," says Sylvan.

After the investigation, the Internet scammers will be taken to court and charged with as serious as a criminal offence depending on the severity of the violation. For internet sites with minor offences, the court will mostly just seek undertakings to comply with the Trade Practices Act.

The commission received an increasing number of complaints and inquiries about Internet scams last year. "The lure of quick and easy money and opportunities to work from home often enticed people into the schemes but the pitfalls often included start-up fees, added costs and grossly exaggerated earning potential," the ACCC said. The result of the investigation will be revealed in the next two weeks.

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