Selling first aid kits door-to-door in remote indigenous communities

It has been great to see the Do Not Knock sticker being adopted by such a wide cross section of Australian communities—it’s fair to say the campaign has gathered a lot of momentum in a short amount of time.

But it’s equally true that we’ve got a lot more to do to clean up the door-to-door sales industry—we still hear shocking stories on an all too regular basis. Our friends at Financial Counselling Australia recently brought a particularly disturbing practice to our attention—a door-to-door marketing company targeting remote indigenous communities and selling them first aid kits worth around $50 for $300-$500.

To ensure the company gets its money, regardless of the customer’s ability to afford the repayments, it sets up direct debits from consumer’s bank account. But because the money is debited regardless of the customer’s bank balance, the direct debit can often force the account into the red—resulting in the account holder being hit with a dishonour fee from their bank.

In a particularly concerning case, a woman who’d been signed up to purchase a first aid kit was nearing the end of her payments when she was approached by the same company offering a “GOLD MEMBERSHIP” which entitled her to purchase a 32 inch TV for $35 per month. Unfortunately, the customer purchased the television which her financial counsellor believes she cannot afford.

Of further concern is that she was only told the cost of the monthly repayments, rather than the overall cost of the TV, so she is unaware of how long it will take her to pay off the TV and what the overall cost will be. If we were to hazard a guess based on other stories we’ve heard, we’d say she’ll end up paying far above the market cost for the TV.

It’s certainly not a one off either- the ABC’s World Today program has reported on similar cases in early November 2011.

These cases are a good example of where a Do Not Knock sticker could have prevented the salepeople using their well-honed, high-pressure sales tactics on vulnerable consumers, who suffered significant harm. Financial Counselling Australia will be undertaking a number of outreach projects with remote communities and we look forward to reporting on their the progress.


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