Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen has referred a complaint against Mercy Ministries to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for misleading practices.

Democrats’ leader Lyn All-ison called for the investigation in Parliament after it was revealed clients were not treated by qualified dieticians, counsellors or medical practitioners as the service advertised.

The complaint also raised the practice of advertising the service as free, while requesting Centrelink to hand over client benefits directly to the service.

It was not free and it certainly was not therapeutic. By all accounts Mercy Minis-tries staff had no accreditation or counselling qualifications and, according to the victims, the mental health issues that brought them to the program were ignored while they underwent exorcism and Bible study, Allison said.

Bowen referred the complaint despite Coalition and Family First senators defeating Allison’s motion.

A spokesman for the ACCC said it could not comment on any investigation.

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