Stopping unfair contracts – I’ll drink to that!

Victoria Legal Aid kindly provided an example of problematic door-to-door sales practices they were able to help resolve.

Matt Anker, who is the Pastor of St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Shepparton Victoria, was frequently approached by members of his Congolese and Sudanese congregation with contract problems resulting from door-to-door sales, including water purifier contracts.

The Congolese and Sudanese communities of Shepparton were being targeted by a door-to-door sales company selling water purifiers. They were told by this company that the water purifiers were needed as the running water in Shepparton was not clean enough (which is not right). Many members of the community signed up and were having trouble paying the cost of the purifier and the associated contract costs.

Matt felt that legal education would help prevent ongoing problems of this nature and spoke with Angela Costi and Erin Wilkinson of Community Legal Education, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA).

Angela and Erin organised an education session in Shepparton which had a prime focus on consumer rights against door seller practice. Joel Townsend, a senior lawyer of VLA, spoke at this session about contracts signed up ‘at the home’. Do Not Knock stickers were distributed to all 50 attendees from the African communities and further stickers were made available for other members of the community who could not attend the session.

At the session, Joel spoke with a few members of the community who were experiencing ongoing problems as a result of the water purifier contracts. These clients spoke to other members of the community and Joel was able to assist 37 people from the Congolese and Sudanese communities who had been adversely affected by these contracts.

Thon Thon, a community development worker and leader of the Sudanese Shepparton community said, ‘After this legal help, the company took the water purifiers away and stopped selling to us.’

Six months later Matt Anker says, ‘This is a HUGE benefit. Before the session I was spending hours every month dealing with companies and Ombudsmen to try to sort out unfair contracts. Since the session – not a single one!’[box type=”info”]

 If you need legal legal advice about problems with door-to-door sales from consumer legal services, you can find your local community legal centre via the National Association of Community Legal Centres website or seek Legal Aid in your state or territory via the National Legal Aid website. [/box]


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