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12 July 2004

American Decievers

Caught at the first hurdle. What about the second?

This story relates to the article, Three Days, Three Seminars & at least Three Million.

I attended the Melbourne presentation by the “American Spruikers” on 2 July 2004.

Boy, are these guys slick !

The introducer started off by “clarifying” a few statements made in the invitation i.e. the presenters are not Australian, there’s no government approved investment etc.

It was at this point that I stood up and shouted the question : “Was there anything in the invitation that was true? ”

The man on stage (he didn’t give his name) tried to ignore my continuing interjections by hurrying onto the stage Nate Osmond (son of former Osmond’s member Alan Osmond) to………….wait for it………..sing the Australian National Anthem!

While the crowd stood up and acknowledged our anthem, I was approached by a burly American gentleman (spruiker security) asking me to step outside to discuss any problems I may have. I told him to go away – I wasn’t going anywhere at that stage.

After a rev up from Nate Osmond, a fellow called Phil Town presented.

Later, I sat back and watched as hundreds of people rushed off to provide their credit card numbers.

It was at this stage, as the auditorium emptied, that I was approached by another young chap (not part of the spruiker crew). He told me he was late for the presentation and wanted to know what was said at the start. What time did they start? Did they make all the correcting statements? I asked if he was a journalist. He said no and became a bit evasive. I said: “If you want any further questions answered, tell me who you are.”

He finally told me, “I work for the ACCC and we are looking closely at what is happening here today.” I gave him my contact details, but somehow doubt that they have the power to do much.

With that I walked out and gave one of the gentlemen taking credit card details a final spray about being a “deceptive company that lies to get people through the door”.

What concerned me was the number of people there that genuinely thought this was the opportunity of a lifetime for them.

This travelling spruiking show is going to many countries, creating a trail of deception.

Although the New Zealand Consumers’ Institute issued a warning to Kiwi consumers, Australia appears to be the only country where a government agency has taken action.

This seminar was originally supposed to be an all-day event. However, because of the ACCC’s action, the property section of the seminar was cancelled and the seminar ended around lunch time.

Those people who handed over their credit card details must have known that the ACCC had taken action against the company for misleading and deceptive claims. I certainly would not think it wise to pay money to a company that tells lies, especially an unknown overseas company.

Spruikers have two hurdles to jump when they set out to take money from consumers. First, their marketing claims and second the content of their seminars.

The first hurdle is the domain of the ACCC. The second is the domain of the ASIC.

In this case, the ACCC caught the company at the first hurdle. However, as they are coming back to Australia later this week, we can only hope that the ASIC will be waiting at the second hurdle.

If not, a lot of people are likely to lose a lot of money.

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