30 June 2015
The Commerce Commission is warning start-up and small businesses to beware of an organisation called New Zealand Small Business Assistance Centre (NZSBAC) that is offering access to government grants.
NZSBAC is not part of or connected to the New Zealand Government, despite the website giving some people the impression that it is.
The Commission has received more than 100 complaints from dissatisfied customers who say that NZSBAC misled them about their businesses’ eligibility for New Zealand Government funding.
Consumer Manager Stuart Wallace said some complainants have told the Commission that after contacting NZSBAC by phone to seek government funds to help establish or grow their small business, they were told that they were eligible for government grants or funding up to a particular amount.
“After making a credit-card payment, a link to a database of New Zealand Government agencies offering grants or funding is received. While some may be eligible for government grants from agencies on the database, many have then found they are either not eligible or not eligible to the extent represented by NZSBAC.”
“Despite NZSBAC’s website showing an Auckland address, there is no evidence they are located in New Zealand. The Commission believes NZSBAC is based overseas and may be associated with a company in Canada. Similar websites appear to be targeting citizens in other countries, and have come to the attention of regulatory authorities in Australia and elsewhere,” Mr Wallace said.
A number of individuals who were featured in ‘success stories’ on NZSBAC’s website, were contacted by the Commission. They say that their videos have been used without their permission. While they did obtain government funding, it was not with the assistance of NZSBAC.
“Information about government funding and grants is typically available for free in New Zealand. We encourage those seeking business funding and grants to visit official government websites such as Business.govt.nz.”
“As NZSBAC is not based in New Zealand the Commission is limited in what investigation and enforcement action we can take. We have liaised with overseas authorities over the complaints received and we are currently looking at other options to protect consumers from being misled by NZSBAC,” Mr Wallace said.