A Melbourne ecommerce business owner has been given 3 months jail for contempt of court.
The Federal Court handed down the sentence to Dhruv Chopra, the owner of now-defunct retail sites Electronic Bazaar and Dream Kart, as a penalty for ignoring the court’s 2015 instructions to not mislead customers on their rights.
“I have no doubt that the contempts [Chopra] committed… are criminal in nature,” said Justice David O’Callaghan in his judgment.
“They involved an attitude of defiance, a deliberate and contumacious determination to defy the court and a direct intention to disobey the court’s order.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had originally taken Chopra to court in late 2014 for breaching Australian Consumer Law in making “false or misleading representations about the availability of consumer refund rights”, denying customers their legal right to get compensation on faulty goods and taking money out of credit cards without supplying the goods within the specified time.
The Federal Court in May 2015 ruled against Chopra, ordering him to pay a $100,000 fine and placed injunctions to stop him making false claims about refunds and exchanges for 5 years.
Then 18 months later, the ACCC again took Chopra to court, accusing him of ignoring the orders at his new online store dreamkart.com.au. The entrepreneur was found guilty of contempt of court in April this year, with the sentence handed down this week.
The ACCC told Business Insider that Chopra has not paid the $100,000 fine either, instead going into bankruptcy shortly after the court ruling. The avoidance of this penalty did not contribute to the contempt of court decision.
Chopra will be immediately imprisoned for one month, with the rest of the sentence suspended on the condition that he stops making false or misleading comments online about consumers’ refund and warranty rights, supply goods on time after accepting payment and getting others in his businesses to do the same.
“The court’s decision to imprison Mr Chopra reinforces the serious consequences for those who do not comply with court orders,” said ACCC commission Sarah Court.
“The ACCC regularly seeks court orders to prevent the same detrimental conduct from happening again and to protect consumers from future harm.”
Back in 2014, when the allegations first surfaced, Chopra told this journalist that he was the victim of “customer fraud” multiple times.
“We have suffered from a lot of [consumer-side] scams… There are ongoing police cases and everything,” he said at the time.
“In retail there is a thing called a chargeback, where the credit card transaction has to be reversed for some reason or another. For example, it could be a wife who used a credit card without the husband’s permission.”
The Dreamkart.com.au is closed as of Wednesday, with a “under maintenance” graphic.