Nigel Rooney, director of repair company Seal-a-Fridge, is set to take on the ACCC next week, in a legal battle to fight unconscionable conduct charges. Rooney claims the watchdog has been bullying him for 4 years and spent over $200,000 to force him to plead guilty to a $25 issue that he had already fixed.
Nigel Rooney contacted Current.com.au to tell his story about how the ACCC has unfairly treated him and his business and why it has chosen to target his company specifically.
Earlier in the year, it was revealed exclusively on Current.com.au that the ACCC had failed to stop Kleenmaid over four years ago when a group of franchisee’s complained to the watchdog about the dodgy practices of its directors. Upon reading this story Rooney said he felt very frustrated.
On 22 July 2008, the ACCC kicked off proceedings against Mr Rooney and his Seal-Fridge business for alleged unconscionable conduct towards its franchisees.
The ACCC claims that Rooney was unreasonably withholding consent to the transfer of franchises, unilaterally increasing fees and disconnecting franchisees from a national Seal-a-Fridge telephone number.
Rooney said that the allegations are false and believes the ACCC is trying to ruin his name.
“All I did was increase the fee of two of my franchisees for a total of $25,” he said.
“These unjust allegations are really going to hurt our franchises and the business as a whole.”
What makes the situation even worse is that Rooney claims the ACCC didn’t even file a suit initially, claiming that the situation was a contract issue and that it wouldn’t take part.
“They initially didn’t want to deal with the complaint, then years later they all of a sudden slam this on us,” he said.
According to Rooney, the ACCC has unfairly decided to take on his small company even though the issue has been fully resolved with his franchisees.
“After I was alerted to the fact that my franchisees were unhappy with the fee increase, I resolved the issue with them by signing a deed of variation,” he said.
“But regardless of this, the ACCC has still filed a case against us and it seems they don’t even care that the issue has been resolved with the franchisees.”
The issue that Rooney wanted to highlight was the fact that the ACCC is going after his small business over $25 and why it didn’t go after Kleenmaid when it publically lost over $100 million.
“Why is the ACCC going after small companies and not touching the multi-million dollar businesses. That is the crux of the matter,” he said.
“It seems the ACCC only targets companies it knows it can bully into submission.”
Rooney is set to confront the ACCC in the Federal Court of Australia under Justice Logan, on Monday 5 October 2009. When asked if he was confident of beating the charges, he was adamant that he will put up a good fight
“I am very confident that I will beat these guys, they have nothing to charge me over.”