‘Rogue’ sales agents allegedly used phoney accents, fake names in energy switch

The external door-to-door sales agents are accused of impersonating Australian customers in phone calls to Simply Energy, where they gave false consent to a contract switch.

The Essential Services Commission issued 125 penalty notices to Simply Energy – the company that contracted the agents – totalling $2.5 million for the alleged fraud.

Many Australians have seen a spike in electricity bills while working from home.
Two sales agents allegedly used phoney accents and fake names to switch hundreds of customers to new energy contracts without their consent. (iStock)

9News understands if a customer wants to go ahead with an offer, they have to give explicit informed consent on the phone which is then recorded.

The two contractors would allegedly pretend to be a customer, using fake accents to impersonate them and give the sale the green light.

Essential Services Commission Chair Kate Symons said the incident was the most blatant case of fraudulent sales contractors the commission has dealt with to date.

“This behaviour from rogue sales contractors undermines customer trust in the market,” Ms Symons said.

“This is the strongest action we have taken against an energy company and shows just how seriously we view customers being transferred by fraudulent means.”

The commission have alleged two sales agents undertook fraud to transfer 525 gas and electricity accounts at 264 properties without obtaining consent, between July 2019 and April 2020.

Ms Symons said many customers only realised they had been transferred after it happened.

“Fourteen customers complained to the company after receiving unexpected information packs, but Simply Energy still went ahead with the transfers,” Ms Symons said.

“Some customers spent hours trying to stop the transfers or to be transferred back to their original retailer.”

This is the third time Simply Energy has been issued penalty notices for not obtaining explicit informed consent before transferring customers.

“That factored into our calculation of the appropriate number of penalties to be paid and our discussions with the company which have centred on gaining assurance this won’t happen again,” Ms Symons said.

“This action should send a strong message to Simply Energy and other retailers we will not tolerate behaviour that undermines customer trust.”

Simply Energy ended its residential door-to-door sales in March 2020.

A Simply Energy spokesperson today apologised to the customers caught up in the fraudulent activity.

“The two field sales agents involved in these matters led deliberate and sophisticated criminal frauds, circumventing our policies and controls, and are the subject of criminal proceedings,” they told 9News.

“We have apologised to all affected customers, reversed and refunded any payments for fraudulent account transfers.”

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