Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) congratulates the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on their historic and significant win in the Federal Court last week, in a case cementing the legal enforceability of ‘Do Not Knock’ stickers.
The case, brought against an energy retailer and a marketing company acting on its behalf, is the first under the Unsolicited Consumer Agreement provisions of the Australian Consumer Law. The court awarded penalties of $1 million to be paid between the two organisations.
“The court ruled that a failure to leave the home of a consumer when requested, including ignoring a ‘Do Not Knock’ sign, was a breach of the Australian Consumer Law and subject to a penalty of up to $50,000 in each instance,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of FCA. “That is potentially $50,000 each and every time a ‘Do Not Knock’ sticker is ignored. The ruling is a fantastic win for consumers.”
FCA has been part of a ‘Do Not Knock’ campaign aiming to put an end to intrusive, annoying and misleading door-to-door sales practices. Tens of thousands of ‘Do Not Knock’ stickers have been sent to consumers on request, including a specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) sticker that has been widely distributed in remote areas of Australia since its launch in May this year.
“Unwelcome door knocking occurs throughout Australia, but is a particularly insidious problem in Indigenous communities,” said Ms Guthrie. “Indigenous people can be more likely to say “yes” to a salesperson; it can be considered culturally inappropriate to directly contradict someone so this exacerbates the problem. Regular feedback from financial counsellors is that their clients, who are often on low incomes, sign up for products because of the pressure they are put under on their own doorstep.”
“Unscrupulous door-to-door traders targeting Indigenous communities will say or do anything to get a sale. We have been very concerned at recent reports of some of these traders ignoring Do Not Knock stickers,” said Ms Guthrie (see case study below). “This court decision makes it much less likely that door-to-door traders will ignore stickers, but if they do – be warned – we will complain. The penalties are severe.”
This example, from a financial counsellor based near an Aboriginal community in remote NSW, illustrates how unscrupulous door-to-door traders are operating. The counsellor visited a particular street in the community and found that a rental company had recently been through, asking residents whether they needed any furniture and encouraging them to sign up for a rental deal. In that one street, four houses had been decked out with furniture the occupants couldn’t afford. All four of the houses had ‘Do Not Knock’ stickers.
For more information on the Do Not Knock campaign, including information on how to download Do Not Knock stickers, visit www.donotknock.org.au