Debate continues over door-to-door marketing

A call by EnergyAustralia for energy retailers to halt door-to-door sales has been rejected by others in the industry, including the industry’s lobby group and other retailers.

Each of the industry majors have been fined in the past for making misleading claims to consumers, which prompted them to move away from using this marketing channel.

Calling the practice “intrusive” and “unwanted”, EnergyAustralia – of the country’s largest retailers – said the industry should halt door-to-door marketing.

“Customers absolutely do not want strangers turning up unannounced at their front door and asking them questions about their personal financial arrangements,” managing director Catherine Tanna said.

“Customers want control of their relationships with energy retailers, including when they get in touch and the manner in which that contact occurs. Instead, ‘door knocking’ is intrusive and, frankly, can make people feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

But the Energy Council, the lobby group that represents energy retailers, has refused to back the call.

A spokesman for the lobby group said door-to-door sales was a decision for individual businesses to make as there was a variety of views among retailers. And smaller retailers, too, said door-to-door sales were a cost-effective means of boosting customer numbers,

In 2014 EnergyAustralia paid a $1.2 million penalty to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to settle six complaints in 2011 and 2012 about door-to-door activities by marketing and sales companies hired by EnergyAustralia.
EnergyAustralia ceased making door-to-door sales in March 2013. AGL Energy and Origin Energy have also since dropped the practice.

When larger players such as EnergyAustralia are questioned over their sales practices, they want to punish the rest of the industry who are doing the right thing, a spokesman for Snowy Hydro said, the owner of retail brands Red Energy and Lumo Energy and has emerged as the industry’s fourth largest player.

“Field sales representatives enable us to have direct conversations with potential customers and sell the benefits of getting electricity and gas with Red or Lumo – both of which are consistently number one and two for customer satisfaction in the energy industry,” the spokesman said.