The Federal Court has ordered a Melbourne retail landlord to pay four tenants in excess of $275,000 after the ACCC found it engaged in unconscionable, misleading and deceptive conduct.
The ACCC alleged Dukemaster, a landlord of retail outlets in the Paramount Centre (Bourke Street), engaged in unconscionable conduct in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974 by taking unfair advantage of its stronger bargaining position, exerting undue pressure and using unfair tactics against four tenants in connection with their leases.
Some of the Dukemaster’s dodgy practices included taking advantage of small business owners who had no or little ability to speak or read English; its ongoing failure to comply with Victorian retail leasing legislation, and threatening to evict or sending letters of demand to certain tenants.
The judge commented that “…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 has ordered that Dukemaster must restrain from engaging in similar conduct for three years and that Dukemaster and Patricia Wong (Dukemaster’s general manager) pay compensation to the tenants in excess of $275,000 for their loss and damage suffered as a result of the contravening conduct.
Recently the ACCC was also successful in another court action on unconscionable conduct, against Craftmatic Australia which involved the use of unfair pressure tactics on vulnerable citizens.