It’s been five months since businesses across Australia were put on notice about the enforceability of Do Not Knock stickers, after the Federal Court’s landmark decision that a sticker is a request to leave a premise under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). It was certainly an expensive lesson for energy retailer Neighbourhood Energy and marketer Australian Green Credits, who consented to pay $1 million in fines for failing to do just that.
To its credit, we haven’t had a single complaint about Neighbourhood Energy since the Court’s decision. Unfortunately for householders, it seems some businesses still haven’t got the message that respecting a Do Not Knock sticker isn’t optional – it’s the law.
Since the Court’s decision on 28 September 2012, we’ve had 64 reports of businesses ignoring a Do Not Knock sticker (up to 7 February 2013). Not all complaints we get are about Do Not Knock stickers being ignored; however, the vast majority do make this allegation.
Of the 64 complaints where a Do Not Knock sticker was ignored, 28 per cent were about businesses who offer energy efficiency products and services, including businesses hawking solar products. A particular source of complaint are participants in Victoria’s Energy Efficiency Target scheme, whereby promoters offer consumers energy saving appliances that are ostensibly free to the householder, distributed on the proviso the householders gives the attendant ‘energy efficiency entitlements’ to the promoters, who then on-sell them to energy retailers. While no cash changes hands in these transactions, we believe it is likely that these promoters are required to respect the Do Not Knock sticker. Embertec and Green Home Green Planet were named three times each by complainants. Eight other complainants who couldn’t tell us the exact name of the business who door-knocked them.
Energy retailers accounted for only slightly fewer complaints, with 26.5 per cent claiming an energy retailer ignored a Do Not Knock sticker. AGL, Origin and Lumo were each named by two consumers, and seven companies weren’t identifiable by the complainant.
That some energy businesses continue to ignore stickers is not only a source of ongoing irritation for householders, it also a significant risk for the business and reputation of the entire industry, given the fine already meted out against an energy retailer. The conduct of energy retailers is high on ACCC’s enforcement priority agenda, and Consumer Action will continue to feed reports of misconduct directly to the ACCC.
It’s not just energy industry businesses prompting complaints. 19 per cent of complaints were about salespeople offering motor vehicle products and services despite the existence of a sticker. One livid consumer complained to us earlier in the month that Midas had door knocked her at almost 8.30pm—ignoring her Do Not Knock sticker in the process.
Of the remaining complaints, pay television and telecommunications service providers accounted for eight per cent of complaints about stickers being ignored, home maintenance services (such as roof restoration and gardening services) accounted for four and a half per cent, and the remaining 14 per cent of complaints were about food and grocery delivery services, newspaper subscription services, real estate agents and the like.
The message to all businesses who undertake door to door selling is simple—respect Do Not Knock stickers, or risk incurring a $50,000 fine.
Consumers are encouraged to use the Make a Complaint form, or share your experiences with door to door salespeople on our Facebook campaign page. If consumers don’t already have a sticker they can order one at www.donotknock.org.au
(Total 64 complaints, 28 September 2012- 7 February 2013)