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The US organisers of a controversial beauty pageant held in Melbourne on the weekend could be fined for a series of blunders including the no-show of the event’s star attraction.
Six-year-old American child-pageant phenomenon Eden Wood was due to participate in the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant held at the Northcote Town Hall on Saturday but did not appear amid speculation her mother Mickie Wood had entered into a last-minute deal with Channel 7 program Today Tonight, trumping Nine rival A Current Affair, which had had earlier secured exclusive rights to the pageant.
Mickie Wood cited safety concerns for the no-show, saying she had been "called a pedophile and a sexual enabler" for a week in the lead-up to the event, which also sparked a protest.
"We didn't show because police were concerned about the protests," she told the Age yesterday. A protest rally had been organised for the Fitzroy Gardens, some distance from the pageant venue.
About 100 entrants, ranging in age from 11 months to 40 years, are believed to have paid about $295 to participate in the pageant. Many paid a further $50 for an autograph and to have their photo taken with the child beauty queen.
Annette Hill, owner of the Texas-based Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant, reportedly offered merchandise to the value of $50, in place of a refund.
Other parents have claimed they never received a receipt. One parent told the Herald Sun they did not get a receipt after paying a pageant bill of $615.
Under Victorian law, receipts must be given by businesses for goods and services worth more than $75 (excluding GST). Failure to comply with the laws can result in fines of $15,000 for businesses and up to $3000 for individuals.
Victoria’s Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien has encouraged parents who feel they were ripped off by pageant organisers to lodge a complaint with Consumer Affairs Victoria.
‘‘Anybody that operates a business in Victoria, whether you’re running a child’s beauty pageant or anything else has to abide by consumer affairs laws,’’ Mr O’Brien told 3AW. ‘‘That means, you can’t mislead or act in a deceptive way. If you sell a particular good or service then you need to deliver on that.’’
Parents were also angered they were not told Eden Wood would be appearing at a Richmond Hotel yesterday in a free event organised by Channel 7.
While the event was advertised on Facebook and through Twitter, parents were not told about it at the pageant and only about 35 people attended the ‘meet-and-greet’.
Eden Wood, who has more than 31,000 Facebook fans, reportedly performed at the Amora Hotel for about 30 minutes, singing her trademark songs Cutie Patootie and Underpuppy, in an event heavily guarded by Channel 7.
- with John Elder.