1st Energy has apologised after its sales representatives likely misled Tasmania consumers shortly after the retailer kicked-off power price competition in the state.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reports that 1st Energy has admitted to offenses, between February 18 and August 23, 2019, that would be in violation of the Australian Consumer Law.
1st Energy has confessed that some sales representatives were using deceptive tactics during unsolicited telemarketing calls in order to get customers to sign up, including pretending they were an independent third-party expert, or were calling on behalf of Tasmania’s incumbent retailer, Aurora Energy.
In some cases, households were given the impression they would be getting a five per cent discount on their Aurora plan, when in reality the offer actually applied to a 1st Energy plan.
1st Energy became the first electricity retailer to enter the Tasmanian retail market and challenge Aurora in February 2019.
It also admitted that some consumers were told they would have an opportunity to consider if they wanted to switch energy suppliers or enter into a contract following the call, when the sales representatives intended to initiate the switch immediately after the call, the ACCC reports.
“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,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“Consumers in Tasmania have been accustomed to only one choice of electricity retailer. We were concerned that some consumers were led to believe 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.
“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.”
1st Energy has acknowledged its role in misleading consumers and has started making amends, according to Executive Director, Adam Landry.
“We’ve undertaken a thorough review and made changes to processes to reflect the ACCC feedback and will continue to focus on improving our interactions with customers,” he told Canstar Blue. “We always welcome opportunities to improve the customer experience and deliver competitive offerings in the Tasmanian market and we provide our apology to any customers whose sales experience caused them concern.”
The ACCC will require 1st Energy to contact affected customers by February 1, 2021, to offer help in ending their contracts free of charge, if they wish.
Energy price competition in Tasmania
While 1st Energy was the first to spark retail competition in Tasmania, it now sits among a spate of new retailers popping up in the island state.
From wholesale energy rates to partnerships with RACT, Tasmanians could find a better deal if they shop around, according to Canstar Blue Editor-in-Chief, Simon Downes.
“The Tasmanian electricity market was deregulated in 2014, but it took until 2019 to see other providers dip their toe into the pool,” he said. “So the idea of comparing options for your energy is a strange one for many Tasmanians, but doing so can bring rewards.
“This is now a good opportunity for households to engage in the market, shop around for better value and generally think more carefully about their energy consumption habits. Doing these things is ultimately how you’ll save money on power bills that can be better spent elsewhere.”
Tasmania Electricity Plans
Here are the published electricity deals from the retailers on our database for Tasmania. These cost estimates are based on a household with an annual electricity usage of 6,775kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff at a selected postcode in Tasmania, but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. Use our comparison tool for a more specific comparison in your area. This table includes featured products from referral partners. Our database may not cover all deals available in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
Image credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.com