Alinta Energy fined $40,000 for allegedly switching customers without consent

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The Australian Energy Regulator has issued two infringement notices to Alinta Energy in relation to breaches of s 38(b) of the Retail Law in relation to obtaining explicit informed consent. The penalties imposed totalled $40,000. This serves as an important reminder to all energy retailers that they will be held responsible for the actions of their agents.

Photo by Rodolfo Marques on Unsplash

By Anne Wardell, Regulatory Specialist, Compliance Quarter.

One of the breaches occurred as part of a telephone marketing campaign conducted by an agent of Alinta Energy. The customer was transferred to an Alinta account notwithstanding that she had indicated on the phone that she wanted to remain with her current retailer. There was no evidence that the customer had provided explicit informed consent.

The other breach occurred following a visit to the customer by a door-to-door sales representative of a different agent used by Alinta. Following the visit by the door-to-door salesman, the customer was telephoned by a sales representative of Alinta for the purpose of entering the customer in to a market retail contract. At no stage was there evidence that the customer had provided explicit informed consent in relation to entering in to the contract with Alinta.

Mr Jim Cox, AER Board Member was quoted in the media release published by the AER in relation to the infringement as stating that:

“Energy Retailers must ensure customers understand the reasons for sales calls and any agreement to transfer is informed and given freely.”

“Energy companies are responsible for what is said or done by their sales agents as the requirement to obtain explicit informed consent (EIC) is a fundamental protection under the Retail Law for energy customers.”

“Protecting vulnerable consumers and promoting confidence in the retail energy market are ongoing priorities for the AER and appropriate enforcement action will be taken where we see evidence of retailers failing to comply with their obligations.”

A copy of the infringement notices are available on the AER website here.

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