Australian Power and Gas the latest energy retailer taken to court over door-to-door selling

The organisation behind the national Do Not Knock campaign has welcomed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Federal Court proceedings against Australian Power & Gas Company Ltd (APG) in relation to its door-to-door selling practices. It’s the fourth case in twelve months in which the ACCC has taken action against an energy retailer for its door-to-door selling practices, and is another sign that the future of energy sales lies elsewhere.

Gerard Brody, CEO of Consumer Action, said he wasn’t surprised by the allegations that APG gave false or misleading representations to prospective customers. ‘Given the hundreds of complaints our Centre has received about door-to-door sales, and what we know about the risks of commission-based selling, it’s clear that no company is immune from the problems door-to-door selling creates.’

‘Of particular concern in the APG case is the allegation that it engaged in unconscionable conduct involving a consumer with very limited English skills. Where there is a financial reward for salespeople to make a sale, then it follows that they are incentivised to use high pressure and even unfair tactics. It’s not a selling method a community minded company should be involved with’ said Gerard Brody.

Mr Brody said APG should follow the lead of Australia’s biggest energy retailers who have now turned their backs on door-to-door sales in favour of more responsible selling methods. ‘The high pressure selling and persistent nature of door-to-door sales can mean consumers buy products which may leave them paying more for electricity and gas’.

‘The simple fact is that energy contracts are complex products and it’s impossible for a customer to make a considered decision at the door. Consumers need to consider their electricity usage pattern, peak & off peak rates, impacts of pay-on-time discounts as well as cancellation fees, but door-to-door sales don’t provide this opportunity.’

Mr Brody also praised the work of the ACCC. ‘Since we launched our Do Not Knock campaign in November 2011 the ACCC has taken a keen interest in the types of cases we were seeing. Over the last year we’ve seen that interest result in some landmark court cases against energy retailers. The ACCC has certainly been proactive, and that’s a characteristic we encourage from Australian regulators.’

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