ACCC slams the door on unfair marketing practices

Published On 03/12/2013 | By KWM | Consumer protection, Enforcement

The ACCC has obtained consent orders requiring Australian Power & Gas Company Limited (APG) to pay a penalty of $1.1 million in relation to illegal door-to-door sales practices.

Earlier this year, we reported that the ACCC had commenced proceedings against APG, alleging that sales representatives had made false or misleading representations and engaged in unconscionable conduct while marketing retail electricity and gas.

As part of the consent orders made to conclude the proceedings, the Federal Court declared that APG (through its contracted representatives) had:

  • engaged in unconscionable conduct during a sale involving a customer with very limited English skills;
  • made false or misleading representations by suggesting that it had approval from, or was affiliated with, the consumer’s existing energy supplier or the government; and
  • made false or misleading representations by indicating that the consumer could receive a discount when APG did not in fact offer the relevant discount.

The Court also declared that APG had breached the Unsolicited Consumer Agreement provisions of the Australian Consumer Law, including those requiring sales representatives to disclose their purpose and identity and advise consumers of their obligation to leave the premises on request.

The penalties against APG follow a series of other enforcement actions brought by the ACCC in the retail energy sector over questionable door-to-door sales practices.  In September 2012, the Commission obtained consent penalties totalling $1 million from Neighbourhood Energy and its former marketing company Australian Green Credits Pty Ltd.  As we previously reported, in May this year entities associated with APG’s parent company AGL were ordered by consent to pay penalties of $1.55 million over false and misleading statements and breaches of the Unsolicited Consumer Agreement provisions.

Proceedings against other retail energy companies are ongoing.

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