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ComCom warns NZ Trustees Association over invoices sent to charities

Wednesday 17th January 2018

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The Commerce Commission has formally warned the New Zealand Trustees Association over invoices sent out to charities for unsolicited membership services saying it breached the Fair Trading Act. 

The regulator warned the industry group saying it didn't clearly tell the charities they were under no obligation to pay the invoices, which it said falsely represented that the charities had agreed to acquire the association's services. Trustees Association donated the charities free six-month memberships via unsolicited emails in 2015 without making it clear that they needed to unsubscribe to opt-out, the commission said in a statement. 

“In our view, the Trustees Association made a misleading representation that these charities had agreed to acquire paid membership services from the Association when they hadn’t,"

Competition and consumer general manager Antonia Horrocks said. "The invoices also failed to inform recipients that they were under no obligation to pay it." 

Trustees Association is a charitable trust that touts itself as "providing a free helpdesk and education to the public, trustees and beneficiaries" and as a "conduit for trustees to voice opinion, form collective ideas and give direction for the trust sector" on its website. The association said it has 400 members. 

The association said it didn't believe it broke the law saying recipients of the donated membership had the option of unsubscribing. The regulator disagreed, saying the charities were never told they had to opt out to avoid being invoiced for continued membership. 

In the letter warning the association, Commerce Commission consumer manager Kirsten Mannix said the regulator noted the association refunded payments made when requested and encouraged the group to seek legal advice and regularly review its compliance procedures and policies. 


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