HICC failed to tell consumers of cooling-off period in unsolicited sales of private health insurance

6 September 2022

Health insurance comparison business Health Insurance Comparison Choosewell Pty Ltd (HICC) has admitted breaching the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by failing to inform consumers of their termination rights, including a 10 business day cooling-off period, when entering into unsolicited consumer agreements for private health insurance.

HICC engaged businesses as third party lead generators to initiate unsolicited contact by telephone with consumers on its behalf before negotiating agreements with those consumers for the supply of health insurance services by a partnered insurance provider.

HICC has admitted that it entered into unsolicited consumer agreements without informing consumers verbally and in writing of their rights under the ACL to terminate the contract, how they could terminate the contract, and that the health insurance provider was not allowed to seek payment until after the 10 business day cooling-off period.

The ACCC has accepted a three-year court-enforceable undertaking from HICC in which HICC commits to not entering into unsolicited sales contracts without giving consumers verbal and written information about their termination rights, and notifying the relevant health insurance provider that the contract resulted from an unsolicited consumer agreement.

In addition, following the issue of an infringement notice by the ACCC, HICC has paid a penalty of $13,320 relating to its admitted failure to give a consumer information about their termination rights in writing after the telephone call in which the agreement was negotiated.

The ACL contains consumer protections which apply to specific unsolicited sales practices, such as door-to-door sales or telemarketing.

“Businesses are reminded they cannot avoid their obligations in relation to unsolicited consumer agreements under the Australian Consumer Law by employing third party lead generators to contact consumers on their behalf,” ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said.

“The Australian Consumer Law is designed to protect consumers from salespeople who contact them without prior invitation or request at home, in public, or over the telephone.”

“Consumer protections in relation to unsolicited consumer agreements include a 10 business day cooling-off period in which a consumer can cancel the agreement for any reason without a penalty or payment being taken. Businesses involved in unsolicited sales, or their representatives, must also inform consumers of their rights and how to exercise them,” Ms Carver said.

HICC has also undertaken to implement a compliance program focusing on the ACL requirements for unsolicited consumer agreements. 

A copy of the undertaking is available at Health Insurance Comparison Choosewell Pty Ltd.

Further information about unsolicited sales agreements is available at Telemarketing & door-to-door sales.

Background

HICC is a health insurance advisory service that operates an online health insurance comparison service via the website www.compareclub.com.au. HICC compares health insurance products provided by partnered insurance providers.

HICC is owned by Compare Club Australia, an online comparison service that offers comparison advisory services on a range of products, including health insurance, life insurance, home loans and energy.

From at least October 2014 to December 2021 HICC, acted as a dealer when entering into negotiations with consumers as a result of unsolicited telephone calls to make agreements for the supply of health insurance services.

Note to editors

The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC can issue an infringement notice when it has reasonable grounds to believe a person or business has contravened certain consumer protection provisions in the Australian Consumer Law.

Release number: 
125/22
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