Strangers are calling! The experience of door to door sales in Melbourne's refugee communities

Refugees Australia Victoria Melbourne

This report examines the impact of door-to-door sales practices on vulnerable consumers, including refugee communities, low-income families and public housing residents. By using the real life experiences of our clients at the Footscray Community Legal Centre ( Footscray CLC ), this report examines the social and legal impact of door-to-door sales. This report finds that disadvantaged consumers are disproportionately affected by damaging and often illegal sales practices. Such practices have social and financial consequences for communities and individuals.

The research was inspired by the specialist “Bring your Bills” Clinics ( BYB Clinics ) run by Footscray CLC to meet the overwhelming demand for assistance with bills. Community members were invited to bring bills they were concerned about to obtain help from representatives from dispute resolution schemes, 1 financial counsellors, lawyers and other social service providers. A high proportion of people attending BYB Clinics experienced problems as a result of door-to-door sales practices by some energy companies.

Problems the clients had as a result of a door-to-door energy sale included:

  • confusion as to whether they had switched companies (and thus why they had received bills from a company that was not their own);
  • debts incurred and legal action taken by energy companies trying to recover debts; and
  • other disputes involving termination of contracts made through door-to-door sales.

For many Australians and particularly those who have recently arrived in the country with a refugee background, the process of selecting energy retailers can be confusing and financially stressful. This report focuses primarily on the methods that some energy companies use to encourage consumers to “switch” companies through door-to-door sales practices, and the social implications of these practices.

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