Cartridge cowboys shot down at VCAT corral
A company that harassed a Queensland farming couple into buying more than 2000 ink cartridges for their single home printer has been ordered to pay the customers back over $90,000.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found that Melbourne-based company Corporate Office Supplies Pty Ltd had acted unlawfully when it sold Rod and Charmaine Sharp, of Mundubbera in rural Queensland, almost 1700 years worth of cartridges for their one Brother home office printer.
Over a series of cold calls in 2015, Corporate Office Supplies coerced Mr and Mrs Sharp, who have two school-age children and farm citrus fruit and cattle on their country property under the name “R & C Sharp”, into buying 2040 ink cartridges at a cost of $78,196.44 for a machine which, on average, consumed one cartridge every 10 months.
Ian Lulham, VCAT deputy president, found in his decision that Corporate Office Supplies had acted unlawfully in selling more than 2000 cartridges to a company which owned a single printer. “The ‘decision’ to purchase so many cartridges was so inherently illogical as to put the vendor on notice that something was wrong: either that the purchaser lacked capacity to make a proper decision, or the vendor had done something – even inadvertently – to mislead the purchaser. The Respondent may as well assert that Mrs Sharp agreed to buy the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” Lulham said, ordering Corporate Office Supplies to refund the Sharps their $78,196.44, plus interest of $5,928.99, and costs of $7,050.00 – for a total of $91,175.43.
Lulham described the sellers’ conduct as ‘unconscionable’, citing the ‘misleading and deceptive’ tactics they had used to coerce the Sharps into ordering such a ‘frankly ridiculous’ quantity of ink cartridges, as well as the ‘bullying and aggressive’ tone taken in their phone calls. “It demonstrated a significant level of moral obloquy that is irreconcilable with what is right or reasonable. It has created great difficulty for Mr and Mrs Sharp, leaving them with a significantly higher overdraft and causing Mrs Sharp significant emotional distress,” he said.
The case has been referred to the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria for further investigation. When contacted by Print21, Corporate Office Supplies declined to comment.