The Consumer Action Law Centre, the organisation behind the successful Do Not Knock sticker and campaign, has welcomed a Federal Court decision that AGL Sales Pty Ltd and AGL South Australia Pty Ltd pay $1.555 million for illegal door-to-door selling practices. In addition, CPM Australia Pty Ltd, the marketing company used by the AGL Energy companies, was ordered to pay $200,000 for its role in the conduct. The fines are the latest result of enforcement action taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
“The ACCC is to be congratulated for initiating these proceedings, and its broader work in keeping energy marketers accountable for their marketing conduct” said Mr Gerard Brody, CEO of Consumer Action. “This is an expensive lesson for AGL, who are the second energy retailer to be fined over $1 million in penalties for unlawful door-to-door selling practices” he said.
At a hearing held yesterday in Melbourne, AGL contested whether the salesperson in South Australia broke the law by seeking to market an energy contract with a consumer despite the presence of a ‘Do Not Knock’ sign on the consumer’s front door. The Australian Consumer Law requires salespeople to leave immediately on request of the occupier or consumer with whom they are negotiating and the ACCC argued that a ‘Do Not Knock’ sign is such a request.
Justice Middleton has reserved judgment on whether a request was made in this instance.
“It’s disappointing that AGL Energy are contesting whether the Do Not Knock sticker amounts to a ‘request to leave’ at law, particularly given AGL’s recent very welcome decision to voluntarily stop door-to-door marketing. We think AGL should be championing consumer rights, by acknowledging that a Do Not Knock sticker is a request to leave and thus encouraging other retailers who still use this form of marketing to respect consumer wishes”, he added.
Mr Brody said that a previous decision of the Federal Court relating to energy retailer Neighbourhood Energy found that a salesperson that ignores a visible Do Not Knock sticker is breaching the Australian Consumer Law. ‘We hope that the court follows its earlier decision, so that consumer rights are upheld’, said Mr Brody.
‘We encourage all Australians to get themselves a Do Not Knock sticker to avoid the dodgy practices of door-to-door sales. The stickers are available for free from www.donotknock.org.au,’ said Mr Brody.
Consumers can also ask to be added to energy retailer “No Contact” lists, if they would specifically like to stop energy marketing approaches. Householders can register at http://donotknock.org.au/no-contact/