Solar company fined $15,000 for flouting cold calling laws (Green Engineering Pty Ltd)

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Flouting door to door trading laws and offering contracts which restrict consumer rights has cost a solar company $15,000 after being fined by the Perth Magistrates Court on 31 August 2016.

Green Engineering Pty Ltd, which operates nationally, was found guilty of failing to comply with provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which set out what salespeople must do when they visit consumers at their home uninvited or contact them by phone.

A doorknocking salesperson from Green Engineering visited a home in Watheroo in March 2015 where a couple signed up to purchasing solar panels for $12,000.

The company salesperson failed to inform the consumers that the purpose of his visit was to negotiate an agreement to supply and install solar panels and he did not provide a company address. He also failed to provide information about the consumers’ right to terminate the agreement within the ten business day cooling off period as required by the ACL. There was also no information about how the consumers could cancel the agreement or about the requirement that no payment should be made or goods or services supplied during the cooling off period.

Illegal clauses contained in the contract contradicted the consumers’ legal rights by stating that the consumers only had a right to terminate within five days of the contract being signed. Other illegal clauses asked the consumers to waive their general consumer rights as well as their specific right to a warranty on the products supplied.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said companies whose staff conduct cold calling or door to door sales campaigns must be aware of their obligations under consumer law.

“Consumers who are approached out of the blue by salespeople must be provided with forms which inform them of the ten business day cooling off period and give instructions on how to rescind the contract if they change their mind,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Consumer contracts need to clearly and boldly state the cooling off period and that no money should change hands, no goods supplied or any work be carried out until this period has expired.

“Cold calling and door to door trading laws are designed to protect consumers, particularly the more vulnerable such as seniors in our community, who are susceptible to high-pressure sales techniques and may regret signing the contract given more time to reflect.

“Contracts, even if signed, cannot void a consumer’s rights under the law. Companies need to ensure that clauses in their contracts don’t contradict the law and should have them reviewed by legal practitioners who specialise in this area.”

Green Engineering told the Court that the company no longer cold calls potential customers; staff training and recruitment has been reviewed; and their contracts have been amended to comply with consumer law. An assurance was given to the Court that these breaches would not occur in the future.

Information about the obligation of traders under the ACL is available on the Consumer Protection website www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp or enquiries can be made by email consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

END OF RELEASE

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
01 Sep 2016

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