ACCC pickin’ up bad vibrations
Door-to-door seller of vibrating therapy products finds out the importance of being honest with your customers, and making sure your salespeople are too.
Imagine this scenario: You are a salesperson going door-to-door spruiking your vibrating products. You offer free massages to senior citizens to gain entry to their homes. It’s all going swimmingly. Your “Cycloidal Vibration Therapy” products are a hit.
When they ask pesky questions about “government approval” you tell them what they want to hear. When they ask pesky questions about “price” you give them a figure that sounds like a bargain. They won’t find out the true price until later, anyway, after they’ve signed the contract.
After they’ve signed the contract and discover they’re liable to pay much more than they initially thought, and want to cancel the deal, you refuse. It’s too late, you say.
When the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) takes you to court and you are fined twenty thousand dollars, you realise you probably made a few wrong choices, as Advanced Lifestyle International Retail did last week.
In the case brought by the ACCC, Advanced Lifestyle admitted that it and salespeople acting on its behalf made misrepresentations to customers regarding price, government approval of products, cooling-off periods, and reasons for visiting people’s homes.
Advanced Lifestyle acknowledged it had made false or misleading claims about government approval of its massage wands, cushions, chairs and beds, either expressed or implied, when no such approval or endorsement existed
The company’s sales staff also misrepresented the actual price of the products, leading to customers signing contracts only to find out they had to foot a much larger bill than they were led to believe.
To gain invitations to enter people’s homes, the company’s representatives offered ‘free therapy treatments,’ or ‘free massages,’ when their true intention was to sell Advanced Lifestyle’s products.
And because the real reason for the visit was misrepresented, the act of selling was legally regarded as un-solicited, which by law comes with a ten-day cooling-off period. However, if customers complained and asked for their money back in that time, they were told they had no right to do so.
One salesperson in particular was singled out as being at fault, but that doesn’t diminish the fact businesses that engage in door-to-door sales must be accountable for their representatives’ actions, says ACCC chairman, Rod Sims. “Door-to-door sales staff must be trained properly and their activities monitored, because ultimately it will be the business that pays for any misconduct.”
For Advanced Lifestyle, that amounts to $19,800 in fines, the implementation of a trade practices law compliance program, and the requirement that they inform consumers of their rights prior to every sales presentation.