The Federal Court has ordered a Melbourne retail landlord to pay upwards of $275,000 to tenants after the ACCC exposed it’s unconscionable, misleading and deceptive conduct.

The ACCC discovered that Dukemaster Pty Ltd and its general manager, Patricia Wong, engaged in unconscionable conduct in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974 by taking unfair advantage of its stronger position, exerting undue pressure and using unfair tactics against four tenants in connection with their leases at the Paramount Centre (Bourke Street).

Some of the dodgy tactics which have come to light include: taking advantage of small business owners with no or little ability to speak English, misrepresenting rental properties as being cheaper than market value, failing to comply with Victorian leasing legislation, and threatening to evict or sending letters of demand to certain tenants.

In relation to the treatment of one particular tenant, the judge commented, “The actions of Dukemaster were deliberate (or at least reckless), showed no regard for conscience and were irreconcilable with what is right or reasonable”.

The Court made judgement that Dukemaster must restrain from engaging in similar conduct for three years and it ordered that the company and Ms Wong pay compensation to the tenants in excess of $275,000 for their loss and damage suffered as a result of the contravening party.