The Australian competition watchdog has issued a warning to all small business owners about services purporting to offer databases of government grants.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) raised an alert about a company called the Australian Business Funding Centre Pty Ltd, or ABFC, which operates the website australiangovernmentgrants.org.
According to the ACCC, the site claims to offer access to an online database of Australian government grants and special loans to small businesses.
However, the site came to the regulator’s attention after a number of SMEs paid fees ranging from $497 to $701 in order to access the database, but then found they weren’t eligible for the listed grants or that there were no grants suitable for their business.
The ACCC also said case studies listed on the website were not authorised by those businesses, nor had they used the service to secure grants.
“The ACCC is issuing a warning in relation to ABFC’s conduct including its australiangovernmentgrants.org website. We are very concerned that small businesses are paying ABFC for a service that does not provide the information and assistance they are have paid for,” said ACCC acting chair Dr Michael Schaper.
“Similar websites targeting small businesses in other countries have also come to the attention of regulatory authorities in New Zealand and Canada.”
According to the ACCC, despite the australiangovernmentgrants.org website including an Australian address, it is operated by ABFC’s sole director, who is based overseas.
Dr Shaper added: “Small businesses should take care when assessing offers to assist them in obtaining government grants. The bottom line is that information relating to government grants is generally available free of charge from a variety of state and federal resources online”.
He said that legitimate information about government grants can be obtained for free at www.business.gov.au and other websites ending with ‘.gov.au’.