ACCC puts energy retailers on notice over door-to-door practices

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is throwing a spotlight on door-to-door sales practices in the energy retail sector, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims announced on 13 September 2011.

In a speech to the ACOSS/ CHOICE ‘Energy at Home’ conference at Parliament House, Mr Sims said “the ACCC is concerned that misleading or deceptive conduct by door-to-door marketers targets vulnerable consumers, such as the elderly and those with a limited understanding of English.”

“The ACCC is now warning industry that misleading consumers about retail energy products will attract severe penalties.”

Under the Australian Consumer Law the ACCC can seek criminal sanctions and civil penalties of up to $220,000 for individuals and $1.1 million for companies per contravention.

Retailers need to ensure that the agents they employ for door-to-door marketing are complying with the law. If a retailer’s agent breaks the law, not only is the agent liable, but the retailer is as well.

“Door-to-door marketing is very common in this sector and is seen by energy retailers as an effective way of gaining market share and building customer volume. In doing so, some engage in aggressive tactics and confuse consumers,” Mr Sims said.

“The ACCC is currently investigating a number of complaints in the door-to-door marketing sector, as well as the conduct of energy comparator websites, particularly in regard to the savings consumers can make in switching retailers.”

“Should those investigations reveal serious misconduct the ACCC will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action to enforce compliance with the law.”

The ACCC and the Australian Energy Regulator wrote to energy retailers in July reminding them of their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law when it comes to door-to-door marketing.

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