Door-to-door sales in hot water again as Fair Work Ombudsman accuses company of underpaying workers

The Fair Work Ombudsman is prosecuting a direct marketing company, alleging it underpaid door-to-door salesmen working for energy retailers.

The announcement is the latest push against door-to-door marketing, especially in the energy retailing market. South Australian federal Labor MP Steve Georganas this year proposed a “Do Not Knock” register bill to Parliament, while the ACCC has already taken three energy retailers to court over their sales practices.

The FWO is alleging Australian Sales and Promotions underpaid five workers by more than $9,000 when performing work for clients.

The FWO is only concerned with work performed by ASP for one client – Energy Australia. 

It accuses the company of paying the workers, three of which were on working holiday visas, only $50 for work worth over $9,000. One worker in Brisbane is owed the most, at $4,107.

“It is alleged the workers, all aged in their 20s, were recruited via job advertisements on the Gumtree and Seek websites for ‘fun’ and ‘friendly’ people wanting to ‘make good money’ in sales positions,” Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said in a statement.

“The workers then allegedly performed door-to-door sales duties for nine hours a day, over periods ranging from one to three weeks, on behalf of Australian Sales and Promotions’ client, Energy Australia.”

It’s also alleged the company classified the workers as contractors and paid them commission at the company’s discretion.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says the decision to prosecute the company was made “because of the seriousness of the alleged conduct and the involvement of vulnerable workers”.

Australian Sales and Promotions was contacted this morning by SmartCompany, but was told chief executive Natalie Gurman was overseas.

The door-to-door marketing industry has been under fire of late. Complaints of aggressive sales tactics and consumers being forced into unwanted contracts have put the energy industry – which is a prime user of these services – on the back foot.

As a result, MP Steve Georganas introduced the Do Not Knock register earlier this year, with advocacy group Consumer Action behind the move as well.

The bill allows for users to sign up to a register so salesmen won’t approach their homes. Companies that breach the law would be liable for fines or penalties.

In March, the ACCC launched action against three retailers over their door-to-door sales tactics: AGL Sales, AGL South Australia and marketing group CPM Australia were accused of misleading and deceptive conduct.

The complaint at the centre of the accusation was that salespeople – with the exception of AGL Sales – did not leave the premises of a potential consumer even after being asked.

The Australian Sales and Promotions website refers to the industry’s “annoyance factor” and says it prides itself on “our below industry standard complaint ratio of less that 0.5%”.

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