Consumers across Australia should be looking forward to a happier new year. From 1 January 2011, Australia will introduce a single, national consumer law -the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL makes a number of significant changes to unify and tighten consumer rights across all States and Territories of Australia. Of particular interest to us are the changes relating to door-to-door sales as this is a practice aggressively pursued by many energy retailers.
Under the new law, a sales person will not be permitted to knock on your door on Sundays or public holidays, before 9am or after 6pm on week days or before 9am or after 5pm on Saturdays. This new law will have the greatest impact in NSW where door knockers are currently able to annoy you (or sell to you) up to 8pm seven days per week. In Victoria, South Australia and ACT door knockers can currently visit up to 8pm on weekdays so from 1 January you should be able to enjoy your dinner in peace. Queensland residents have already been benefiting from the most restrictive door selling times in the nation and the new laws reflect the standards set in Qld.
It will be interesting to monitor whether these new laws actually result in less door knocking activity by energy retailers and others or whether it will result in more concentrated activity over a shorter time period. If you are a person usually at home during the day then you might actually be worse-off. However, those of you working 9 to 5 should enjoy a peaceful existence.
Over the 32 days remaining until the ACL takes effect, we expect to see a burst of door knocking activity as companies scramble to get as many new customers as they can. This will likely be most acute for NSW residents given that the selling hours are to be reduced the most.
Unfortunately, telemarketing hours have not been reduced in line with the new door knocking hours – this can still be done until 8pm on weekdays and until 5pm on Saturdays. As a result we might expect to see more calls being made to consumers to make up for any shortfalls from door knocking. At least you have some control here – simply register on the Do Not Call Register to avoid irritating sales calls.
We take this opportunity to give one simple piece of advice to all of you – never make a decision at your front door or on the phone. Always ask for an offer in writing, which you can review at your leisure, before making any decisions to enter into new contracts with energy companies or anyone else for that matter. And don’t agree to something just to get rid of a pesky sales person – it’s not worth the hassle. If you don’t take our advice at least remember that by law you have a 10 business day cooling-off period to cancel.
If you are interested, you can read more about the new law on the Australian Consumer Law Website.