Energy retailer fined $20K in “disturbing” case

Simply Energy

Simply Energy has paid $20,000 after a telemarketer allegedly arranged to switch a customer with an acquired brain injury to the company without his consent.

The Essential Services Commission issued the penalty after finding sales agents ignored requests to ‘call back later’ even after the man showed signs of being confused, and indicating he was unable to consent to the switch due to an acquired brain injury.

Commission chair Ron Ben-David says the whole case is disturbing.

“Over two days and four phone calls, Simply Energy’s sales agent withheld key information, ignored requests to ‘call back later’ and disregarded the customer’s wishes not to enter into a new contract,” he said.

Dr Ben-David says the company’s processes for ensuring appropriate consent before switching a customer failed on this occasion.

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“Explicit informed consent is a core principle of customer rights and energy retailers are responsible for ensuring they, or any sales agent working on their behalf, can meet the standard required before arranging a transfer,” he said.

The Victorian Energy Retail Code requires energy retailers to provide accurate, clear, full and understandable information on all matters relevant to consent.

This includes providing contract information in plain English and being able to demonstrate through appropriate record keeping that the customer is capable of, and has given consent.

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A Simply Energy spokesperson said the company is sorry this happened and has put additional requirements in place for its agents to help prevent it happening again.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure customers aren’t confused about what is being agreed to when we quote rates and start the transfer process,” a Simply Energy spokesperson said.

“We fell short in this case and once made aware, we reported the error to the regulator, transferred the customer back to their original retailer and waived all charges.”