New report from the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre: Minimising Consumer Detriment from Energy Door-to-Door Sales

The team at www.DoNotKnock.org.au welcomes a new report from the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre (CUAC) focussing on door-to-door energy sales.  Minimising Consumer Detriment from Energy Door-to-Door Sales assesses the extent of consumer detriment and the effectiveness of regulation in the energy market, and offers eleven recommendations to make the market work better for consumers.

Helping consumers opt out of door-to-door energy sales

Of particular interest to us was a recommendation in the report which would complement the Do Not Knock sticker and help households avoid door-to-door energy sales.

At present, energy retailers are required to maintain a ‘no contact list’ – this is a list of consumers who have requested not to be visited by the energy retailer and it’s a list they must abide by. But as things currently stand, every energy retailer maintains its own list so, in order to opt out of door-to-door energy sales completely, consumers must register their details with each individual retailer.

CUAC’s report makes the very sensible suggestion that the Essential Services Commission’s energy comparison website, www.yourchoice.vic.gov.au, include a tool that allows consumers to ‘request addition to retailers’ No Contact list via a single, centralised form’.[1]

We’ve indicated our willingness to work with CUAC to help it advance this welcome initiative.

Consumer detriment

CUAC’s report recognises the role that door-to-door selling has had in giving Victoria’s energy market ‘the highest switching rate of any in the world’, but also recognises the consumer detriment caused by door-to-door sales. From the annoyance value of being interrupted at home, to more significant detriment where a salesperson has acted poorly or where the consumer is vulnerable.

The report also considers the possibility that some consumers may be signing deals at the doorstep which cost more than their current energy plan. Identifying a lack of research in this area, the report calls on the Victorian Government to undertake research to establish if and to what extent households who switch energy providers at the doorstep end up paying more for their electricity.

Call for the ESC to take a greater role in enforcement

Another of the recommendation in the report is that the Essential Services Commission be more proactive in ‘promoting compliance with its Energy Marketing Code’.[2]

The report points out that the ESC has ‘at no time used its statutory powers to enforce compliance’,[3] and draws a stark contrast with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which recently used its powers to take energy retailers and energy marketing companies to the Federal Court.

More information about the work of the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre can be found at http://www.cuac.org.au/.

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