November 8, 2013
Deregulation is a facet of Western competition policy, directed on the one hand at empowering market efficiency whilst simultaneously granting the consumer both a voice and a freedom of choice. Telcos, pay tv providers and the news media have all at some stage led their hand at direct marketing, however it is the electricity and gas retailers of late which have honed direct marketing into a fine art.
Where do you stand, or more to the point, where does the direct marketing salesperson stand faced with signage on your premises, be it your home or place or work, displaying ‘do not knock’ signs, symbols, or their written equivalent?
Justice Middleton of the Federal Court of Australia recently considered this and other direct marketing practices of energy retailers in the matter of ACCC v AGL Sales Pty Ltd.  His Honour had to consider whether such ‘do not knock’ signs and/or symbols were sufficient to constitute a ‘request to leave’ as mandated by section 75(1) of the ‘Australia Consumer Law’. Sensibly, His Honour found in the affirmative:
The words “DO NOT KNOCK” and the pictorial depiction of the fist constituted an unambiguous request to leave the premises within the meaning of s 75(1).
The Do Not Knock Sign conveyed a request for the salesperson to leave Ms Plant’s premises for the purposes of s 75(1) of the ACL. By directing the salesperson not to knock and stating that the salesperson was not welcome on the premises, it conveyed a clear direction that the salesperson was not authorised to carry out the purpose for which he had entered the premises and therefore that he should immediately leave the premises. If the occupier of the premises had made similar oral statements to the salesperson, it would have constituted a “request” for the salesperson to leave. No different result should follow by reason of the fact that the statements were contained in a sign displayed on the front door of the premises. (Emphasis added)
The position affirmed by the Court is clear. The Australian Consumer Law allows persons approached by direct marketing salespersons to request their leaving. The request may be verbal, written, or by unambiguous symbol. If you are at all concerned with these salespeople not respecting your requests, it may pay to call the ACCC.