Origin Energy fined $2m for illegal sales tactics

ORIGIN Energy has been fined $2 million for illegal sales tactics including a salesperson prompting a native Tamil speaker to agree to sign up to the company's services.

The Federal Court ruled Origin and its marketing company SalesForce Australia had engaged in unconscionable conduct, undue harassment or coercion, false or misleading representations and breaches of the unsolicited consumer agreement provisions of the Australian Consumer Law.

The fine is the highest ever ordered against an energy retailer.

The court found in one instance a sales representative continued to negotiate with a native Tamil speaker after being advised that the consumer had difficulty understanding English.

This included prompting the consumer to say "yes" to questions on a phone call to confirm an electricity contract with Origin.

In a second offence the sales representative continued to negotiate with a consumer after she informed him that she was not the authorised account holder, and repeatedly advised that she was not interested in changing her electricity retailer.

An Origin spokeswoman said they were disappointed customers had been let down.

"We're extremely disappointed that a number of customers had a poor experience, and while the conduct in question was performed by a third party on our behalf, it's our duty to ensure that anyone who represents us reflects our behaviours and values," she said.

"We apologise to customers who were impacted by this behaviour.

"Origin discontinued residential door-to-door sales in September 2013 and so the behaviour is no longer present within our business."

The rulings are the fifth the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have brought against an energy retailer for door-to-door sales activities.

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