Origin Energy Limited has been ordered to pay $325,000 in penalties by the Federal Court for flouting Australian consumer law. The company was slugged with the fines for falsely advertising the level of discount customers would receive under one of its energy plans. Tch. Will electricity providers ever learn?
Origin Energy Limited is the latest energy company to be penalised for making false or misleading representations to customers. The fine surrounds the level of discount that residential consumers in South Australia were told they would receive under a DailySaver energy plan.
Customers were told they could expect to receive a discount of up to 16 per cent off electricity usage charges and up to 12 per cent off natural gas usage charges. These representations were found to be misleadingly false, as the rates used to calculate usage charges under a DailySaver energy plan were higher than the rates under the subsidiaries standard retail contracts. This resulted in a substantially reduced discount than the one that was advertised.
The company and two of its subsidiaries have since been fined to the tune of $325,000. It will also publish a corrective notice in The Advertiser newspaper, notify all affected consumers and pay of a contribution towards the ACCC’s court costs.
“Energy plans featuring discounts are designed to attract consumers and do so because they are seen as providing an opportunity to ease that pressure,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Origin misled consumers about the level of discount they would achieve under a DailySaver energy plan – the key feature that would have attracted consumers to the plan. This is a priority area for the ACCC, and we will continue to take appropriate action against energy retailers who engage make false or misleading claims to consumers, particularly where those claims concern discounts or pricing.”
This is far from the first time an energy provider has found itself on the wrong side of Australian Consumer Law. In 2013, Energy Australia was forced to dump its entire door-to-door sales force due to customer dissatisfaction. It also picked up a Shonky Award for hiking its electricity prices without adequately informing customers.
In the same year, AGL was fined a whopping $1.5 million dollars for making misleading and deceptive comments to potential customers. Back in 2012, Neighbourhood Energy and Australian Green Credits were both ordered to pay penalties of $1 million due to dodgy door-to-door sales conduct.
As we have previously reported, you can't trust the percentages spouted by energy providers at face value. Without knowing how much electricity you use with your current provider, their saving claims are going to be an estimation at best. In short, the only way to be sure is to do the hard work and calculations yourself.