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Marketing by energy retailers

Most of us have dealt with energy marketers, having received telephone calls, door knocking or having been approached in a shopping centre.

Energy retailers are limited by legislation as to how and when they can contact you for marketing purposes.

It is important to know your rights. The information on what they can and cannot do and what you should consider when dealing with energy marketers.

Marketing conduct

Retailers use a number of different marketing methods. They can contact you in person or by phone, by mail or electronic means.

Electricity and gas retailers and their marketers (such as telemarketers or door-to-door salespeople) have to comply with the strict requirements of the National Energy Retail Rules and the Australian Consumer Law, including when and how they can contact you.

If marketers or salespeople do contact you, they must comply with all applicable Commonwealth and State laws, such as the Competition and Consumer Act, and must:

  • Clearly identify themselves, who they work for and why they are contacting you.
  • Only contact you on weekdays 9am – 6pm and Saturdays 9am - 5pm and not at all on Sundays or public holidays (except by prior appointment).
  • Provide timely, accurate, verifiable and correct comparisons.
  • Provide truthful, easy to understand information in plain English.
  • Explain any fees or charges that apply to their service, including termination fees.
  • Provide you with written terms and conditions before asking you to sign a contract.
  • Provide you with a written disclosure statement after you agree to a contract.
  • Tell you about the 10-day cooling off period for customer contracts.
  • Leave your home immediately or end the phone call when you ask them to do so.
  • Provide you with an Energy Price Fact Sheet (including summary of terms and conditions, prices, any discounts that apply and contact details of retailer).
  • Maintain a “No Contact” list.

If a marketer does not comply, you can contact either the retailer they represent or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

If you wish to prevent telemarketing phone calls or door-to-door salespeople you can place your phone number on the Do Not Call register or place a Do Not Knock sticker on your door.

Misleading statements

Some electricity or gas marketers may give you misleading information or pressure you in to signing a contract.

Keep in mind that some marketers may be working on commission.

They may do the following:

  • Say your electricity or gas will be disconnected.
  • Ask to see previous bills to confirm you are getting rebates.
  • Offer discounts for your area.
  • Tell you there will be no exit fee for leaving your current retailer.
  • Ask you to sign a document to show they have spoken with you.

Listen carefully, take time to read any documentation and consider any offers thoughtfully. Do not simply rely on claims about saving money.

Early termination fees

Remember that marketers do not know the terms and conditions of the contract with your current electricity or gas retailer.

Marketers may tell you that you will not have to pay an exit fee to your current retailer if you sign with them, but have no way of knowing whether this is true.

You should always refer to your current contract for any early exit fees.

Have you agreed to a new contract?

Electricity or gas contracts do not need to be signed to be accepted.

You can make a verbal agreement to accept a contract.

Be aware of what you agree to during a phone call as it may be considered acceptance of a contract.

Even if you do accept a contract over the phone, the energy retailer must still provide you with a disclosure statement outlining the details of the plan and the 10 business day cooling off period.

Read the fine print and keep copies

A contract is legally binding. Read it carefully and do not feel pressured into agreeing to a contract that you have not read or do not understand.

Always keep copies of the information provided to you by the marketers as well as a copy of any contract that you sign.

If there is a dispute in the future you will need all the original paperwork.

Links and further information