From January 2012, a new code of practice will cover those annoying people who come to your door and try and convince you to change your electricity supplier. While that should in theory curtail some of their more irritating habits, our advice remains simple whatever the rulebook says: ignore them.
The new code of conduct, to be administered by industry group Energy Assured, was approved this week by the ACCC, which had rejected an earlier version for not providing sufficient consumer protections. It has also only approved the code for three years, and says it will look closely at the code before offering a renewal of that approval after that time.
Under the code, salespeople must wear a clear identifying badge, clearly explain the terms and conditions of any offer, not misrepresent what's actually involved, and leave your property as soon as requested. It's a tad appalling that all this has to be spelled out, but there's little doubt that many current sales types ignore many of these requirements. There are also requirements for training sales staff and enhanced procedures for complaints.
The code of conduct builds on existing consumer laws, which forbid door-to-door salespeople from visiting outside the hours of 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays (public holidays and Sundays are blocked outright). I'm all in favour of better regulation in this area, but whatever the rules, I'd still argue that there's absolutely no point in signing up with a door-to-door salesperson and you should close the door promptly but politely if one shows up.
There's no doubt that many of us pay more than we need for utility services, in part because we don't want the hassle of changing. But if you do decide to switch, it's a decision that deserves careful and considered research, not signing up simply because someone is desperate to make their commission. Much better to spend some time online really finding out what your options are (and possibly then hitting up your existing provider to persuade them to give you a better deal).