The ACCC has sent a clear message to companies engaged in door-to-door and telemarketing sales conduct to ensure they comply with the requirements of the Australian Consumer Law or face action.
Hot on the heels of proceedings against EnergyAustralia and AGL Sales Pty Limited, the ACCC has obtained a court enforceable undertaking from Red Energy Pty Limited in relation to alleged misrepresentations made by one of its telemarketers. Red Energy has also paid infringement notices totalling $26,400.
Red Energy is a supplier of retail energy to consumers in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It has admitted, in the undertaking, that a telemarketer employed by it made false representations and engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct during unsolicited calls to consumers.
The telemarketer represented that he was calling about the consumer’s current energy bill with a rival supplier, that he was affiliated with that supplier and was not calling to sell anything. These representations were all false. He also falsely represented that all energy retailers in New South Wales must charge consumers the same price for retail electricity and that all retail electricity prices in New South Wales are regulated by the government.
As part of the undertaking, Red Energy is to make efforts to contact all current customers who entered into an agreement with it for the supply of retail energy following a call from the telemarketer in question in order to inform them they may have been given misleading or deceptive information and that they may cancel their agreement with Red Energy without any penalty. It also undertook to publish corrective notices on its website, to include a link to the Australian Energy Regulator’s price comparator website on its website, and to enter into a compliance program.
In September, the ACCC also brought proceedings in the Federal Court in Brisbane against Australian Power & Gas Company Limited (APG) in relation to its door to door selling practices, alleging that certain conduct of its sales representative was misleading or deceptive and in one case, unconscionable.
The alleged conduct is painfully familiar – the sales reps represented that APG had approval from, or was affiliated with, the consumer’s current energy retailer or distributor, that APG had approval from, or was affiliated with, government and that the consumer could receive a certain discount off their bill with APG, when APG did not offer such a discount.
It is also alleged that the salespeople breached various of the unsolicited consumer agreement provisions of the ACL by failing to advise consumers that their purpose was to seek the consumer’s agreement to the supply of retail electricity and/or gas by APG, failed to advise consumers that they were obliged to leave the premises immediately on the request of the consumer and failed to provide information about their identity.
Telemarketing and door to door sales conduct has been a focus of the regulator and it has now achieved a number of successful outcomes. It is an opportune time to take check of the obligations in the ACL about such sales and ensure that sales people receive proper training about the requirements they must meet.