Door-to-Door Energy Sales Tactics and a New Code to Combat Them

As outlined last month, some energy companies receive a large volume of complaints with the energy ombudsman. Many of those complaints stem from the use of high pressure sales tactics by door-to-door salesmen.

Here are some of the tactics that I've heard of:

  • Salesperson purports to be a government representative.
  • Salesperson asks to see your bill, only to write down the NMI (National Metering Identifier) which is the key piece of information they need to switch your retailer.
  • Salesperson makes the numbers confusing by quoting percentage discounts rather than actual dollar amounts.
  • Salesperson illegally allows non-account holders to change companies despite the bill being in another person's name.

A new code of practice

To combat the high number of complaints the energy industry recently launched a new code of practice.

The code, put together by industry group 'Energy Assured' includes:

  • A national scheme to ensure sales agents are recruited, trained and assessed in a consistent manner across the industry.
  • A central register of accredited sales agents.
  • Monitoring sales agent behaviour so that a proven breach of the standards may result in deregistration of the sales agent for five years.
  • Imposing sanctions on energy retailers or marketing companies who fail to comply with the Code.

It's good to see that to both Origin Energy and AGL Energy are members of the new program. These companies received the highest number of complaints in New South Wales last year.

The full member list at the moment is:

  • AGL Energy
  • Australian Power & Gas
  • Lumo Energy
  • Momentum Energy
  • Energy Retailer’s Association of Australia
  • Origin Energy
  • Red Energy
  • Simply Energy
  • TRUenergy
  • Aegis
  • Appco Group
  • ASAP
  • Australian Green Credits
  • Communicom
  • CPM
  • The SMART Group
  • XYZ Docklands
  • TSA

Avoid door-to-door sales: do the research yourself

Energy companies use door-to-door sales because most consumers are not proactive in seeking out a new energy company.

There are certainly good deals to be had, but rather than trusting a door-to-door sales person I would suggest you do your own homework.

There are now a significant number of energy price comparison websites. Of course, just like door-to-door sales, these websites have their own set of problems with bias and disclosure.

If you can find an unbiased comparison such as My Energy Offers in New South Wales that is your best option.

Do you think the code will work? What has been your experience with door-to-door sales of energy deals?

- Ryan McCarthy

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