The managing agent of a North Queensland resort has been ordered to hand over $770,000 in fines and restitution of overcharged credit card service fees.

The management company for the Magnetic Island International Resort specified in its appointment document a charge for the actual credit card commission as set by the bank but in fact it charged a significantly higher fixed rate.

The total of the overcharged credit card service fees over a number of years on 1135 occasions was $209k.

The fine ordered by QCAT for the “unparalleled skimming.. devised to fly under the radar”, was – despite the obvious “commonality” of the numerous events – double that sum: $418k.

Had the credit card service charge been specified in the PAMDA form 20A appointments, they would have been entirely permissible charges. Nevertheless the tribunal rejected the agent’s assertion that the situation had come about by reason of simple oversight and a “change in accounting systems”.

The company was also found to have breached the PAMD Act on 11 occasions for failing to disclose to unit owners entering the letting pool, of its conflict of interest i.e. that it had interest in other units within the pool.

In addition to the fine, the agency’s owner Donald McGrath was ordered to repay the $209k plus some additional charges levied to owners for “Accor affiliation” and the legal costs of the Department of Fair Trading of $135k.

According to the Vanuatu Daily Post (quoting the Townsville Bulletin as a source), Donald McGrath is the pseudonym for one Bill Webb, former owner of Port Vila’s Rossi Hotel who was sentenced to eight month’s jail in 1993 for attempting to procure the bombing of his tourist vessel “Queen of the Isles” in order to obtain an insurance payout of $1.3 million.

Several of the resort’s unit owners complained to Fair Trading in 2009. McGrath’s management agency company collapsed in 2012.

Chief Executive, Department of Justice and Attorney General v Halmarn Pty Ltd [2014] QCAT 099 Dr Cullen, Member 20/03/2014 

 


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