Notre Vie Enterprises Pty Ltd V Saturnian Pty Ltd[i] is a recent VCAT matter that involved a public relations business, which engaged an employment agency to find a personal assistant for it.
The client claimed that the agency recommended an unsuitable candidate, who resigned after two weeks. It also claimed that the agency’s shortlisting decision was biased in favour of the successful candidate because of a prior work relationship between the agency’s consultant and the candidate, which was not disclosed until after the first round of interviews. The client sought a refund of $3,960 based on the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). It did not contend, and the Tribunal did not find, that the agency breached any of the statutory guarantees in the ACL.
The agency denied the allegations and argued that its shortlisting decision was based on objective evidence.
The Tribunal found that the successful candidate was given preferential treatment due to the former work relationship with the agency’s consultant. It also found that the agency failed to re-advertise the position as it was required to do under the contract.
However, the agency argued that, although the applicant had the benefit of a 100% satisfaction guarantee in the contract, the client chose not to use it and managed to a replacement by itself within 48 hours.
In the circumstances, the Tribunal found that the client did not prove that the agency engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, and therefore was not entitled to a refund.
The application was dismissed.
The decision serves as a useful reminder that good arguments and correct statements of legal principle do not win cases if they are not supported by the facts.
Andrew C. Wood
[i] Notre Vie Enterprises Pty Ltd v Saturnian Pty Ltd (Civil Claims)  VCAT 95 (31 January 2023)