ACCC launches action against energy retailers for door-to-door marketing breaches

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking three energy retailers to court over their door-to-door sales practices.

The consumer watchdog announced yesterday that it has filed proceedings in the Federal Court against AGL Sales, AGL South Australia, and marketing company CPM Australia.

The ACCC has also instituted separate proceedings against Neighbourhood Energy (which is part of the Alinta group) and its former marketing company Australian Green Credits.

The commission claims that the energy retailers engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and that AGL Sales and CPM Australia made a range of false representations to consumers in the course of door-to-door selling.

It also alleges the retailers breached the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which is designed to protect the rights of consumers in door-to-door transactions.

With the exception of AGL Sales, the ACCC claims the retailers breached the ACL by failing to immediately leave the premises at the request of an occupier.

The ACCC argues that consumers requested the salespeople to leave by placing a ‘do not knock’ sign on their door.

It also alleges that the companies breached the ACL because their salespeople did not clearly advise the consumer that the dealer’s purpose was to seek the person’s agreement for the supply of services, that the dealer would be obliged to leave immediately upon request, and the name of the marketing company and the name and address of the supplier of the services being offered.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, and costs in the Federal Court.

The commission says “it will not hesitate to take swift action to enforce compliance with the laws that are specifically designed to protect consumers in this area.”

As part of the ACCC’s ongoing work in this area, the ACCC and the Australian Energy Regulator have recently signed agreements with State and Territory energy ombudsmen that will allow greater scrutiny of “dubious” door-to-door marketing of energy products.

This is the latest hit to the direct marketing industry following a private member’s bill before Parliament proposing the establishment of a Do Not Knock register allowing people to place their names on a list that would ban door-to-door marketers from approaching their premises.

AGL spokesperson Karen Winsbury says AGL had taken a leading role in the establishment of an industry code of practice for door-to-door selling. 

“We take these issues very seriously and will address the statement of claim in due course.”

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