Energy retailer fined $2.5 million after ‘phoney accent’ switch


Melbourne-based energy retailer Simply Energy, which is 100% owned by Engie, has paid penalties totalling $2.5 million after two external door-to-door sales agents allegedly impersonated customers consenting to the switches in phone calls.

Simply Energy, which has more than 700,000 accounts across Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, with sales totalling 12% of the Australian market, was issued with 125 penalty notices after the agents allegedly impersonated customers consenting to the switch in phone calls to the company.

Victoria’s Essential Services Commission said the two sales agents had, between July 2019 and April 2020 transferred 525 electricity and gas accounts at 264 properties without obtaining their consent.

Commission chair Kate Symons said it is 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,” she 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,” she said.

Symons said it is the third time Simply Energy, which contracted the agents, 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,” she said.

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

A Simply Energy spokesperson told 9News on Monday that the company 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 said.

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

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