Simply Energy has paid penalties totalling $2.5 million after its door-to-door sales agents allegedly used phoney accents and fake names to switch Victorian customers to new contracts.
Victoria’s energy regulator issued Simply Energy with 125 penalty notices after two sales agents allegedly impersonated customers consenting to switch plans and providers over the phone.
The Essential Services Commission (ESC) found that between July 2019 and April 2020, two rogue sales agents transferred 525 gas accounts and 264 electricity accounts without customer consent or knowledge.
These actions are considered to be the most blatant cases of fraudulent sale contractors the commission has ever dealt with said ESC Chair Kate Symons.
“This behaviour from rogue sales contractors undermines customer trust in the market,” she said. “This is the strongest action we have taken against an energy company and shows just how seriously we view customers being transferred by fraudulent means.”
Simply Energy has paid penalties totalling $2.5 million after two external door-to-door sales agents allegedly used phoney accents and fake names to switch hundreds of customers to new energy contracts without their consent.https://t.co/L0RmFGtTbL pic.twitter.com/0tp2Hjf6iG
— Essential Services Commission (@EssentialVic) July 26, 2021
Most customers were left in the dark about the changes to their account, only finding out once the transfer had occurred, added Ms Symons.
“Fourteen customers complained to the company after receiving unexpected information packs, but Simply Energy still went ahead with the transfers,” she said. “Some customers spent hours trying to stop the transfers or to be transferred back to their original retailer.”
This is not the first time that Simply Energy has copped penalty notices for not obtaining explicit consent, with the retailer also fined in November and December in 2019 for similar instances.
Ms Symons warned providers that these kinds of tactics will not be tolerated by the regulator, with the severity of these repeated actions highlighted in the penalties handed down to Simply Energy.
“That factored into our calculation of the appropriate number of penalties to be paid and our discussions with the company which have centred on gaining assurance this won’t happen again. This action should send a strong message to Simply Energy and other retailers we will not tolerate behaviour that undermines customer trust”.
A Simply Energy spokesperson said the company has since apologised to and amended the transactions of the affected customers and taken the appropriate measures to ensure these kinds of tactics are not carried out in future.
“The two field sales agents involved in these matters led deliberate and sophisticated criminal frauds, circumventing our policies and controls, and are the subject of criminal proceedings . We have apologised to all affected customers, reversed and refunded any payments for fraudulent account transfers. In March 2020, Simply Energy ended residential door-to-door sales activities.”
In June 2021, defunct energy retailer Click Energy was also penalised $640,000 for engaging in similar dodgy tactics when a sales agent switched over Victorian customers without their explicit, informed consent.