You’re enjoying a quiet afternoon at home when suddenly you hear a knock at the door. “Who could this be?” you ask yourself as you walk over to find out. You open the front door to greet your mystery visitor, only to discover… it’s a salesperson… great!
If you’re like most, then you probably don’t appreciate salespeople showing up at your doorstep uninvited. Door-to-door salespeople from energy retailers are particularly prevalent these days and while some door-knockers may offer legitimate value, others might leave you trapped in a bad deal where you pay too much for energy. In this guide, Canstar Blue looks at what you should do when a door-to-door salesperson comes to your home. This article has a particular focus on representatives from energy retailers and what consumers should look out for to avoid being suckered into a raw deal, but this general advice could equally apply to other subjects, too.
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First up, are door-to-door sales legal?
Door-to-door selling in Australia is completely legal, however door knockers must adhere to a number of strict requirements under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
When a door-to-door salesperson approaches you, they must first tell you their name, the name of the organisation they are representing, and the purpose of their visit. They must then inform you that you can tell them to leave, and if you do so, they will leave immediately and not return for at least 30 days. Further, there are restrictions on when a salesperson can visit. They cannot attend:
- Before 9am or after 8pm on weekdays
- Before 9am or after 5pm on Saturdays
- On Sundays or public holidays
To prevent door-to-door salespeople from coming to your home entirely, you can print and display a ‘do not knock’ sign. This sign can be downloaded from the ACCC website. If a salesperson ignores this sign, attends your property at a restricted time, or do they not leave immediately, then that person may be trespassing and could be in breach of the ACL.
How to deal with door-to-door salespeople
When a door-to-door salesperson arrives, they should immediately provide their name and company details as required by law. Again, you are perfectly within your right to ask the salesperson to leave at any time.
Door knockers from energy companies will typically ask you a few questions to first ascertain whether or not it’s worth their time trying to sell you something, such as whether you are the home owner, or if you have the authority to switch energy providers at the property. You may also be asked who your current energy retailer is, and if you have switched in recent years. It’s okay if you don’t know this information – many Australians don’t. What’s important is that you don’t just accept everything the salesperson tells you at face-value.
For example, door-to-door energy representatives are likely to offer you a ‘discounted’ energy plan and may claim it could save you hundreds of dollars a year. If that happens, ask them for a few more details, such as:
- The terms and conditions of the discount;
- The contract length (called the benefit period) of the contract;
- How they calculated the claimed savings;
- Exit fees and late payment fees;
- The retailer’s hardship policy;
- Any available rewards programs
If, after hearing the salesperson’s pitch, you are satisfied that you want to switch, then you should be across some additional consumer rights. Under the ACL, a sales agreement needs to be in writing. This agreement must:
- Be signed by you and the salesperson
- Set out the full terms and conditions of the agreement
- State the total price payable
- Clearly state that you have a right to terminate in the cooling off period
- Include the ABN and contact details of the seller
Customers that switch providers have a 10-day cooling off period within which they can cancel their new energy contract. There are no consequences for exercising this right.
Energy Retail Door Knockers
The big three energy retailers – AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia – all claim that they no longer engage in door-to-door marketing. Each retailer had previously been fined for illegal door-to-door sales activity on separate occasions. Yet while the big companies have hung up the clipboards, a few smaller retailers still use door-knocking sales as an affordable way of engaging with potential new customers.
- Keep in mind that the salesperson that knocks at your door may not work directly for the power company they are representing. It’s common that companies will pay third parties to do this on their behalf.
These are some of the energy companies that engage in door-to-door sales at the time of writing. There may be others that do so.
Red Energy door knockers
Red Energy markets itself through door-to-door sales via a company called ‘Sales Assured’. Sales Assured says it has established guidelines to provide high standards of training and ongoing monitoring of its sales agents. The company claims that its members communicate clearly and do not engage in high pressure sales tactics. It also claims to never exploit customer inexperience or vulnerability.
Alinta Energy door knockers
Alinta Energy says it respects the ACL with regards to door-to-door sales and provides a checklist for customers that interact with their representatives. This checklist asks customers whether the time of the visit was appropriate, whether the representative identified themselves, whether they understand the contract and whether they were informed of the product features and cooling off period. If the answer is no to any of these questions, Alinta urges customers to contact them immediately.
Simply Energy door knockers
Simply Energy has used door-to-door sales tactics in the past, however it’s unclear whether it still does. In 2015, Simply Energy was fined by the ACCC for two allegedly misleading representations made in 2014 where customers were incorrectly told that there was an ‘urgent problem’ or ‘something wrong’ with their supply in order to get them to switch.
Other energy company door knockers
A number of other companies that currently or have previously engaged in door-to-door sales include:
- 1st Energy
- Click Energy
- Momentum Energy
- Lumo Energy
Should you accept a door-to-door sales offer?
While you might find door-to-door salespeople a little annoying, they are not all out to rip you off – in fact, some could possibly offer you a good deal, especially if you’ve never changed electricity providers before and you’re stuck on a standing offer. With that said, you should view door knocker sales pitches through a lens of healthy scepticism.
- While they might be offering you a good deal, the point is that you have no way to determine this for yourself at the time, without just accepting everything you’re told, which doesn’t seem like something you should be doing.
- If you are tempted by the offer, why not ask the salesperson to leave you the details to consider and call back at a later date? This would give you the time to think about the offer, do your own research, and ask your family what they think you should do.
- The nature of door-to-door sales means you are caught off-guard and unprepared for what you are about to be told. With this in mind, you should only agree to the terms presented if you are 100% confident that you’re making the right decision. Even in this event, it doesn’t hurt to wait a couple of days and seek further guidance before signing up.
It is generally not advised to sign up to an energy deal before comparing what else is on the market – that’s why Canstar Blue compares prices from a wide range of providers, so you can find and assess the information you need to make an informed decision in the one place. You can start by following the link below.
What are the chances that door-to-door salesperson just so happens to have the best deal around? They may, but surely it’s worth checking a wide range of offers first.