The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has reauthorised an industry code of practice for face-to-face energy sales conducted by electricity and gas retailers.
Energy Assured Limited was formed by energy retailers to develop and manage the code. It applies when energy products are sold through house visits and in other face to face settings such as at kiosks at shopping centers.
“The scheme assists in educating sales agents about their obligations in dealing with consumers. It contains sanctions, including deregistration, for sales agents who do not comply with the standards set by the scheme,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
Deregistered sales agents are not able to be re-employed by any Energy Assured member for five years.
In its draft determination the ACCC expressed concerns that the scheme did not focus sufficiently on the accountability of energy retailers for the behavior of sales agents employed by them.
To address this concern, the ACCC proposed conditions of authorisation requiring amendments to the way the scheme operates. In particular:
- strengthening the independent auditing of members’ particularly in relation to whether any underlying systemic issues may be contributing to identified instances of sales agents not complying with the standards set by the code,
- strengthen the provisions of the code relating to sanctioning energy retailers where systemic breaches of the code are identified, and
- strengthen the code as it applies to comparators who are engaged in face to face sales where they compare contracts available from a range of energy retailers.
- Energy Assured has since amended the code to address the concerns raised by the ACCC.
“The changes adopted by Energy Assured should place greater focus on the accountability of Energy Assured members for the behavior of the sales agents employed by them,” Ms Rickard said.
The ACCC has authorised the code for a further five years.
Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.
Further information about the application for authorisation, including a copy of the ACCC's determination and public submissions, is available on the public register.