The competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says it now accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from 1st Energy.
In a statement on the 1st Energy matter issued on Monday, the ACCC says that 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.
The ACCC also said:
“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,” the statement concluded.
ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said: “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,”
“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.”
Commissioner Court also said that, “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.”
The ACCC says that 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.”