Origin Energy Hit With Penalties Of $2M For Door-To-Door Selling Tactics
Origin’s marketing company SalesForce Australia was also ordered to pay $325,000 in penalties.
The ACCC has today advised that the penalties were handed down following the court’s findings against Origin and SalesForce of “unconscionable conduct, undue harassment or coercion, false or misleading representations and breaches of the unsolicited consumer agreement provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL)”.
The court found, through the conduct of sales representatives acting on their behalf, Origin and SalesForce had engaged in a range of unlawful conduct in breach of the ACL while calling on 10 consumers in four states to negotiate electricity contracts with Origin.
The actions of sales representatives in two instances constituted unconscionable conduct, the court found.
In one instance, a sales representative continued to negotiate with a consumer, who was a native Tamil speaker, after being advised that the consumer had difficulty understanding English.
The consumer was prompted to say “yes” to questions on a phone call to confirm an electricity contract with Origin.
In the second instance, a sales representative continued to negotiate with a consumer after she informed him she was not the authorised account holder and repeatedly advised she was not interested in changing her electricity retailer.
The sales representative instructed the consumer to state her husband, who was the authorised account holder, had signed an agreement when that was not the case, during a phone call to confirm a contract with Origin.
Justice Katzmann stated in her judgment that the sales representative in each case had “practised deceptions on the consumers in order to secure their custom”.
“They preyed on the vulnerable and the ill-informed,” Katzmann stated.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims noted the penalties are the highest “to have been ordered against an energy retailer and an individual marketing company in relation to illegal door-to-door behaviour”.
“This reflects the serious nature of the contravening conduct, including the fact that Origin and SalesForce were held to have engaged in unconscionable conduct and undue harassment or coercion,” Sims stated.
“The message is clear – energy companies must ensure their sales representatives do not use illegal tactics when negotiating with consumers at their door.”
Last week, the ACCC advised that EnergyAustralia and its former telemarketing company Bright Choice Australia had been ordered to pay penalties totalling $1.1 million for misleading consumers.