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ACCC Slap Origin's Dodgy Door-to-Door Dealings

By Oonagh Reidy | Thursday | 26/09/2013

Knock, knock: who's there? Origin harassment team.

Energy giant Origin is accused of forceful door-to-door sales tactics.   

The consumer watchdog has filed proceedings in the Federal Court against Origin Retail and Electricity as well as its third party marketing company, SalesForce, it said today. 

This is the fifth time in the past year the ACCC has taken proceedings against energy companies for dodgy door -to-door dealings. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission allege SalesForce sales reps, acting on behalf of Origin made "numerous false and/or misleading statements" to consumers. 

It also alleges "several " instances of unconscionable conduct, "undue harassment and/or coercion" by sales reps, despite consumers repeatedly indicating that they weren't interested. 

Sales reps even coached consumers to consent to sign up with Origin during a verification call, ACCC believes. 

Dodgy claims by Origin's dodgy door-to-door team included: there was a government requirement for the consumer to change providers to Origin; that the consumer had been overcharged by their current electricity provider; that Origin was affiliated with the Electricity Trust of South Australia.   

Salesforce sales reps hit thirteen different homes across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia between September 2011 - Dec 2012. 

The ACCC acted on thirteen complaints made by consumers, but its likely the number affected goes far higher than this. 

 The dodgy tactics breached Consumer Law under Unsolicited Consumer Agreement provisions, and  are "particularly serious," says Chairman Rod Sims. 

Both Origin and SalesForce each face fines of up to $1.1 million for breaches of consumers law, an ACCC spokesperson told CN.

Reps even failed to inform the customer of their right to cancel the contract within the 10-day cooling off period, and even failed to leave the consumer's premises on request, in come cases. 

Origin, have a deplorable reputation for customer service. 

Recently, a customer in Sydney with a modest two bed apartment received a $1,300 bill for a six week period from Origin, who refused to assist the customer or recognise there could be a fault with the billing procedure or metre, which turned out to be the case. 

There are plenty of other horror stories to this affect.  

The ACCC is also seeking costs, injunctions, an order for corrective notices, an order for Origin Energy and SalesForce to implement compliance programs. 

But its not just Origin who have been in the firing line for dodgy sales tactics by the watchdog. Marketing companies working for AGL and EnergyAustralia, too, have been fined or are still in proceedings for similar breaches of consumer law. 

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