28 Nov 2017

Company fined $351k over hard-sell tactics

7:05 pm on 28 November 2017

A company that used scare tactics and deceptively difficult maths tests to trick parents into buying education software has been fined $351,000.

Outside the Auckland District Court on Albert Street.

Auckland District Court Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Auckland Academy of Learning was sentenced over 11 breaches of the Fair Trading Act in the Auckland District Court today.

Its door-to-door salespeople used scripted hard-sell tactics, some of which were dishonest, Judge Noel Sainsbury said.

During submissions made this month, the court heard how salespeople had given children a test which they said was one year below their current school level.

It was in fact more advanced and when the papers were shown to the parents covered in red marks many were convinced they needed the programme.

When people signed up, some found it almost impossible to back out if they changed their minds.

The judge said the offending was serious.

He said it was cynical marketing that attacked people who were vulnerable "because of their natural concern for their children".

Some families had cut back on food to make payments because they were so worried about their children's future.

The Commerce Commission had 182 complaints about the company but said more then 2400 customers may have been deceived because of the tactics used.