ACCC Website Release # MR 207/02 Issued: 30th August 2002
Court finds TV production company misled job seekers, aided by TV network
Television production company, Crackerjack Productions Pty Ltd, has been found by the Federal Court in Sydney to have misled job seekers about the availability of work offered by it while making a reality television program for Network Ten.
The court has made orders by consent against Crackerjack, its producer Mr Jim Burnett, and Network Ten Pty Ltd in relation to conduct that included the placement of misleading job advertisements in several newspapers by Crackerjack for the purpose luring potential subjects for a reality television show it was producing.
In January and February 2001, Crackerjack advertised casual jobs in the New South Wales regional city of Dubbo, and in Melbourne, seeking a 'Self Starting Girl/Boy Friday' for five days' work. Crackerjack also placed vacant positions with several job agencies in Dubbo. Its purpose in placing these advertisements was to lure job seekers to an "interview" and then film them after asking them to help out in fictitious situations contrived by Crackerjack employees. For example, job seekers in Dubbo, believing they were to be interviewed for the job, were asked to assist a film crew making a television commercial at the time. The job seekers were not told their actions were being filmed by Crackerjack for possible use in a candid camera style television show.
Two job seekers were then offered the advertised work by Crackerjack. This work, however, was not genuine and the tasks both were required to perform over the five days were part of an elaborate hoax. The two individuals involved, who were paid for their five days, were not told until afterwards the real reasons behind what they were asked to do, nor that they were being filmed.
The court, in the consent orders, found Crackerjack's purpose in advertising and offering the five days' work was to obtain candid film footage of job seekers for use in a reality television program it was making called Mind Games – A Real Life Adventure, broadcast by Network Ten on 4 August 2001.
In addition to finding that Crackerjack had breached the Trade Practices Act 1974 by engaging in misleading conduct and misrepresenting the availability of employment, and that Mr Burnett was knowingly concerned in the conduct, the court also made the following orders against Crackerjack and Mr Burnett:
both be permanently restrained from undertaking similar conduct again
Crackerjack to send a letter of apology to affected job seekers
Crackerjack to put in place a trade practices compliance program
Crackerjack and Mr Burnett pay the ACCC's costs as agreed in relation to the legal proceedings taken against them.
Network Ten was also found by the court to have misled one of the job seekers in relation to a mock press conference he was required to take part in during the five days he thought he was working for Crackerjack as an assistant to a film crew. The court also found that Network Ten was knowingly concerned in Crackerjack's breaches of the Act by commissioning Crackerjack to produce the television show despite being fully aware of what Crackerjack proposed to do.
The ACCC has asked the Court to also restrain Network Ten from engaging in similar conduct in future. The company has opposed this application, which shall be heard by the court on 21 October 2002.
"This case sends a very sober message to all television production companies and networks who commission and broadcast their programs", ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today. "The popularity in recent years of reality TV programs has been demonstrated by the high ratings these shows have achieved in Australia. The ACCC understands reality TV holds great appeal for many viewers and does not wish to restrict the legitimate production of these types of programs. However, the producers of these TV shows, when seeking to maximise their entertainment potential, must be careful not to engage in misleading conduct in breach of the Trade Practices Act.
"The ACCC was very concerned in this matter that job seekers, particularly those in the New South Wales central west region of Dubbo, being keen to find work and support themselves financially, may have been exploited by the actions of the two companies involved. People looking for work are generally in a vulnerable position and prospective employers must not unfairly take advantage of this or they risk breaching the Act".
ACCC Website Release # MR 116/02 Issued: 13th May 2002
ACCC institutes against Crackerjack Productions Pty Ltd and Network Ten Pty Ltd for allegedly misleading job seekers
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings against Crackerjack Productions Pty Ltd, Network Ten Pty Ltd and Crackerjack officer, Jim Burnett, in the Federal Court, Sydney, alleging misleading and deceptive conduct in connection with false employment advertisements.
The ACCC alleges that as part of producing a 'candid-camera' type television show for Network Ten, and with the knowledge of Network Ten and Jim Burnett, Crackerjack placed advertisements in newspapers and with job agencies offering a week's employment as a 'Girl/Boy Friday'. Job applicants were falsely led to believe they were applying for a legitimate job working with a film crew when in fact the employment advertisements were a hoax and were placed to lure job seekers two of which later became the subjects of the television show without their knowledge.
The ACCC also alleges Network Ten participated in the facade by misleading one of the two "successful" applicants during the week the applicant thought he was working as an assistant to a film crew.
Film footage of the two successful applicants, taken by Crackerjack during the interview and the week both applicants thought they were legitimately employed as assistants to a film crew, was later used in the production of a television show called Mind Games – A Real Life Adventure, which screened on Network Ten on 4 August 2001.
The ACCC alleges that:
Crackerjack has breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974, which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct, and section 53B of the Act, which prohibits misleading conduct in relation to employment
Network Ten has breached section 52 of the Act and was knowingly concerned in Crackerjack's contraventions of the Act
Jim Burnett, a producer at Crackerjack, was knowingly concerned in Crackerjack’s contraventions of the Act.
The ACCC is seeking court orders including:
declarations that Crackerjack has breached sections 52 and 53B of the Act
declarations that Network Ten has breached section 52 of the Act and was knowingly concerned in the contraventions of sections 52 and 53B of the Act by Crackerjack
declarations that Jim Burnett was knowingly concerned in the contraventions of sections 52 and 53B of the Act by Crackerjack
orders requiring both Crackerjack and Network Ten to each publicise the outcome of these proceedings in relevant newspapers
orders requiring both Crackerjack and Network Ten to each send letters to the job applicants acknowledging and apologising for their conduct
The matter has been listed for a directions hearing in the Federal Court, Sydney, on 12 June 2002.
The Age. Fake jobs gag riles watchdog and lands TV show in court
By Lyall Johnson, Consumer Affairs Reporter May 14 2002
Australia's consumer watchdog has not seen the funny side of hoax job ads placed by a television production company making a Candid Camera-type show, and is taking the company and Network Ten to court for breach of the Trade Practices Act.
The ads, placed by Sydney company Crackerjack Productions in a number of regional and capital city newspapers and job agencies, invited applications for one week's work as a "Boy/Girl Friday", assisting a film production crew.
The company then secretly filmed the applicants during the job interviews and interacting with a "wacky professor" who worked with animals as part of a skit for the show Mind Games - A Real Life Adventure. The show screened on Network Ten on August 4 last year.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is alleging that advertisements placed by Crackerjack, with the knowledge of one of its directors, Jim Burnett, and Network Ten, were "misleading and deceptive".
According to the ACCC, 138 people applied for the false jobs. Two applicants were employed by Crackerjack after the interviews and were paid for their week's work, which was also secretly filmed for the show.
They signed release forms after they finished the week's work and did not make complaints about the situation, but have provided statements requested by the ACCC.
ACCC spokeswoman Lin Enright said the commission was alerted by one of the unsuccessful applicants who, after his interview, received a release form in the mail requesting permission to use footage of him taken during the interview.
Ms Enright denied the ACCC had no sense of humour. She said the ACCC's only objective was to protect Australians from being deceived and uphold the Trade Practices Act, which strictly prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to employment advertisements.
"With respect, I don't think people should be misled about jobs, particularly at a time when people are struggling, particularly in country areas, to find jobs," Ms Enright said.
Network Ten yesterday refused to comment, and Jim Burnett from Crackerjack Productions failed to return calls.
The ACCC is seeking court orders - including declarations of the breaches, apologies and costs - with the matter listed for a directions hearing on June 12. However, it is not seeking fines or any other criminal sanction.
Although the conduct was "quite serious" in that it involved blatant deception, there "wasn't the degree of reprehensibility required for imposition of criminal sanctions", the spokeswoman said.
Sydney Morning Herald. Not such a Crackerjack idea. August 30 2002
Charges brought by Australia's consumer watchdog against a candid-camera style program and the television station which aired it have been upheld in the Federal Court.
Both Network Ten and the independent Crackerjack Productions were found by Justice Kevin Lindgren to have misled job seekers, lured to bogus interviews for the program Mind Games - A Real Life Adventure shown on August 4, 2001.
Crackerjack had placed advertisements for five days' employment as a "self starting girl/boy Friday", after which applicants were asked to help out in contrived scenarios.
Two job seekers were then offered the advertised work - also an elaborate hoax - and were not told until later the reasons behind their employment.
The ads were placed in newspapers and with job agencies in Melbourne and the central NSW city of Dubbo, attracting 138 responses.
Crackerjack and program producer Jim Burnett were found at yesterday's Sydney hearing to have breached the Trade Practices Act by engaging in misleading conduct and misrepresenting the availability of employment.
Both were ordered to be permanently restrained from undertaking similar conduct again, and to send a letter of apology to affected job seekers.
Network Ten was found to have misled one of the job seekers in relation to a mock press conference he attended while under the impression he was working for Crackerjack as a film crew assistant.
The court also found Network Ten was knowingly concerned in Crackerjack's breaches of the Act by commissioning the program despite being fully aware of what they intended to do.
The charges were brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and its chairman Allan Fels said the finding served as a reminder to all program makers.
"People looking for work are generally in a vulnerable position and prospective employers must not unfairly take advantage of this or they risk breaching the (Trade Practices) Act," Professor Fels said.
Crackerjack Productions today refused to respond and a response was not immediately available from Network Ten.