Court finds door-to-door conduct unconscionable

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The Full Federal court today handed down its decision in relation to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) appeal in its case against vacuum cleaner company, Lux Distributors.

The ACCC claimed Lux had engaged in “unconscionable conduct” in relation to the sale of vacuum cleaners to three elderly consumers in their homes. Upon appeal, the court agreed that the aggressive sales tactics were indeed unconscionable.

It was alleged by the ACCC that a sales representative called upon five elderly women in their homes under the premise of a free vacuum cleaner maintenance check, and that each of the women was then subjected to unfair and pressuring sales tactics to induce them into purchasing a vacuum cleaner for a price of up to $2,280.

“This is a significant decision for the ACCC as it provides important clarity regarding the scope and operation of the unconscionable conduct provisions in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL),” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“In particular, the decision has important implications for conduct which occurs in breach of consumer protection legislation, particularly where this conduct involves vulnerable consumers,” Sims added, commenting that the findings should be viewed as a warning to businesses who use door-to-door sales strategies.

The court found that the consumer protection laws of the states and Commonwealth reinforce the recognised societal values and expectations that consumers will be dealt with honestly, fairly and without deception and unfair pressure.

In its judgement the court also said, “The norms and standards of today require businesses who wish to gain access to the homes of people for extended selling opportunities to exhibit honesty and openness in what they are doing, not to apply deceptive ruses to gain entry.”

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