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Source: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The ACCC has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from electricity retailer 1st Energy Pty Ltd in relation to representations made to consumers in Tasmania during unsolicited telemarketing calls.

Between 18 February and 23 August 2019, third party sales representatives for 1st Energy cold-called Tasmanian residential energy customers who had accounts with the state’s incumbent electricity provider Aurora Energy, and offered them a five per cent discount for paying on time.

1st Energy was a new entrant in the Tasmanian energy market at the time, seeking to sign up new customers.

1st Energy has admitted that the sales representatives made several representations that were likely to be false or misleading in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

The sales representatives told certain customers that they represented independent energy comparators or experts or led them to believe they were calling on behalf of Aurora.

The 1st Energy sales representatives also represented to some consumers they would get a discount on their existing Aurora energy plan, when the offer actually applied to a 1st Energy plan.

Further, 1st Energy admits that some consumers were told they would have an opportunity to consider if they wanted to switch energy suppliers or enter into a contract after the call, when the sales representatives intended to initiate the switch immediately after the call.

“Consumers who receive unsolicited marketing calls have a right to expect that the caller will not mislead them about who they are and what they are offering. Nor should consumers be signed up to any contracts without their explicit consent,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“Consumers in Tasmania have been accustomed to only one choice of electricity retailer. We were concerned that some consumers were led to believe that they were talking to their existing provider or purported independent experts and were not made aware that they were being called by a retailer, 1st Energy.”

“Businesses should be aware that even when they rely on agents or other third parties to cold-call consumers for them, their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law also apply to conduct on their behalf by those agents,” Ms Court said.

1st Energy has undertaken to contact its affected customers by 1 February 2021 and help them exit their contracts, if they wish, without charge.

The company will also update its compliance program, staff training and complaints handling system to prevent similar conduct from occurring in the future.

A copy of the undertaking can be found at 1st Energy Pty Ltd.

Background

1st Energy is an electricity retailer which commenced operations in 2014, originally servicing New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. It commenced supplying electricity in Tasmania in February 2019.

The Tasmanian market previously had only one electricity retailer, Aurora Energy Pty Ltd.

More information and details on protections given to consumer as a result of entering agreements during unsolicited marketing calls, including cooling off periods, can be found at Telemarketing & door-to-door sales.

The Australian Government’s national Do Not Call Register allows consumers to list their home, personal mobile or fax number to reduce telemarketing calls.

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