Pop-up photo scammer exposed by ACCC

A pop-up photo retailer operating in shopping malls has been exposed as deceptive and engaging in unconscionable conduct when selling photography products by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

ACCC

Proceedings have begun in the Federal Court against Lifestyle Photographers Pty Ltd, trading as Expression Sessions.

According to the ACCC, “The conduct of concern allegedly targeted some of the most vulnerable groups in the Australian community, including customers who were in considerable financial distress or who had a limited capacity to understand commercial contracts,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

Lied to get business

Between 2012 and 2014, Expression Sessions operated from pop-up stores and kiosks in shopping centres in all states and territories in Australia. The company sold photography packages, which can include photographic prints, canvases, glass tiles and key rings.

The ACCC alleges that Expression Sessions offered prospective customers a free photo shoot or free photographs, and in the course of doing so, represented that:

  • they would be able to receive photographs of their children at no cost; and
  • they would be able to receive photographs of their children without entering into a contract

It is alleged that these representations were false or misleading because customers were not able to receive free photographs, and customers were required to enter into a contract with Expression Sessions to purchase photographs.

It is also alleged that these representations induced customers to participate in a photo shoot, and that Expression Sessions failed to clearly advise its customers of the total price of their photographic products at the time of entering into the contract.

“It is important that businesses are upfront with consumers and clearly explain the price of the goods and services they are offering. Consumers need to be able to fully understand what they are agreeing to before making a decision to enter into a contract”, Commissioner Court said.

“The ACCC is currently prioritising consumer protection issues impacting on vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers, with a particular focus on Indigenous consumers.”

Targeted disadvantaged consumers

Expression Sessions customers were in many cases Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or were financially disadvantaged. The ACCC claims that the sales method used by Expression Sessions, as well as the use of unfair tactics and undue pressure and the failure to provide clear and accurate information about its contractual terms, was unconscionable.”

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, redress for affected consumers, pecuniary penalties, corrective notices, the implementation of a consumer law compliance program and costs.

The matter has been filed in the Federal Court’s Sydney Registry. The first Directions Hearing is set for 8 October at 9.30am.

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