In a statement, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) said that it has received “numerous” complaints from small businesses who had signed up to rent software through credit providers, on the understanding they would receive advertising fees from Rebl Corp to cover the cost of this lease.
The group — which operated under the names Rebl Corp, Digital Rebl and Media Rebl — has since stopped trading and the businesses lodging complaints no longer want the software rentals.
AFCA, which last year amalgamated the functions of the Financial Services Ombudsman (FOS) and two other bodies to centralise financial complaints — will investigate whether credit providers can legally enforce these rental agreements, it said.
The outcome of the regulator’s investigation and subsequent verdict on the matter will determine how the matter is resolved for all of the businesses who have lodged complaints.
AFCA noted that under legal rules, credit providers are unable to make any attempt to recover debts while it is actively investigating complaints.
SMEs that had entered into finance agreements relating to Rebl Corp Group are urged to first contact their credit provider, and if that does not resolve the situation, lodge a complaint directly with AFCA.
A dedicated website has been established for businesses concerned about their dealings with Rebl Corp Group.
On 1 March 2019, ASIC issued notice that Dane Hammond of Worrells Solvency and Forensic Accountants had been appointed as liquidator for both Digital Rebl and Media Rebl.
Worrells has been contacted for comment.
At the time, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) issued a warning for SMEs to be wary of businesses offering low-cost, no-cost or “cost-neutral” advertising packages in light of the collapse of Rebl Corp Group, and a similar case in the collapse of Viewble Media and The Shoppers Network.
The latter, according to the ASBFEO, created “serious issues for the businesses involved”.
“It is very important that small business owners are fully aware of what they are signing up to,” the Ombudsman said.
“If you are approached by a salesperson offering no-cost or very low-cost advertising, we encourage you to investigate the companies involved, closely examine the contracts and ensure you have a good understanding of what services are being offered — especially if there is a finance contract involved.
“We suggest that small businesses exercise extreme caution when an offer seems too good to be true — it often will be.”