A Perth-based business has taken in numerous members of the mining industry with a business convention it falsely claimed to be staging at a country club in the Pilbara.
Perth-based company Australian Industry and Lifestyle Exhibitions has been advertising the three-day mining and resources expo, scheduled to be held next month at the Karratha Country Club in the Pilbara, on both its own website and a number of other mining-related sites.
Management at the Karratha Country Club beg to differ, however, telling ABC News that no such event was ever booked with it.
"It was never ever booked with us," says Karratha Country Club general manager Nola Brown.
Brown says she has recently had to field numerous inquiries about the spurious event from aspiring exhibitors who have already paid an attendance fee.
"I'm taking anywhere from two to four calls a day for the last probably three weeks with people who have paid the deposit for the expo and unfortunately can't get their money back," she said. "Hopefully it's not going to have any kind of reflection on the country club, but unfortunately the website [makes it] look like it was us."
According to Australian Mining, the man behind the purported exhibition is John Webb, who told the publication he had emailed the president of the country club about the event and made a booking.
Brown has denied such claims, however, saying no official booking was ever made, though the club president does appear to recall communications on the issue with Webb.
"It was never, ever, ever officially booked," she said.
Australian Mining further reports that it has received a deluge of phone calls and emails from people in the local mining industry who have accused Australian Industry and Lifestyle Exhibitions of fleecing them in the past.
"Many of us have been burnt," said one commenter on the official Facebook page of Australian Mining, who says he paid $5,000 to exhibit at the Single Mining & Safety Expo, originally scheduled for 2011, only for it to be subjected to interminable delays.
"Every time (Webb) postpones he sends you an email with the contract wording reminding you he can postpone any time he likes."
Webb has since been the subject of a Today Tonight expose, with testimonies from a number of aggrieved exhibitors who paid thousands of dollars to participate in events organized by the organiser, only for them to be subject to multiple delays or see very meagre attendance.
In 2009, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found Webb guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct under the Trade Practices Act, and was ordered to pay $50,000 in costs after the commission concluded he had deceived consumers with claims that Prime Minister John Howard and former WA Premier Geoff Gallop had lent their support to his mining expos.