Alinta Energy has been penalised $280,000 after its door-to-door sales agents were alleged to have switched Victorians onto contracts without each customer’s explicit informed consent.
Victoria’s energy watchdog issued Alinta Energy with 14 penalty notices for using third party agents to unlawfully switch customers in areas such as Melton, Wodonga and Truganina.
The Essential Services Commission (ESC) found that between March 2018 and March 2019, sales agents employed by Alinta engaged in fraudulent behaviour by impersonating customers in phone calls in order to sign them onto new energy contracts.
It is the second time in two years that Alinta has been reprimanded by the state energy regulator for signing up customers without proper consent, having also been penalised $300,000 in August 2018.
Essential Services Commission chairperson, Kate Symons, said gaining customers through dodgy sales tactics is unacceptable and damages consumers’ faith in the industry.
“To rebuild trust in the Victorian energy market consumers must have confidence they will only be switched from one energy retailer to another after they are properly informed and have given their consent to the switch,” she said.
Ms Symons explained energy companies need to do more to protect customers to prevent incidents like these occurring in the future.
“In most of the cases, the company only became aware of the falsified sales when customers called to complain. Alinta has demonstrated its fraud prevention controls were deeply flawed and open to exploitation by deceitful sales agents,” she said.
The Victorian energy regulator has since contacted electricity and gas retailers emphasising that it is their responsibility to ensure third party agents comply with industry rules and regulations.
A statement from Alinta Energy Executive Director of Retail Markets, Jim Galvin, said the company admits it was at fault and has revised the way it will conduct sales.
“We apologise to the 14 customers affected by the fraudulent behaviour of the door-to-door sales agents working for the third-party sales channel involved,” Mr Galvin said.
The statement added: “Since self-reporting the issue to the ESC Victoria in 2018, we have completely withdrawn from door-to-door sales in Victoria. We have also made changes to strengthen our sales quality and compliance regime overall.”
Alinta Energy states it no longer markets its energy offers door-to-door in Victoria, and hasn’t done since July 2019.
The retailer, with more than a million customers across the country, is already in hot water this year for allegedly risking its customers’ privacy, an accusation the company firmly denies.
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