Pulse Energy has been warned by the Commerce Commission for switching customers without their consent, a practice known as slamming. This is the fourth time the commission has taken enforcement action against Pulse since 2011.
In its warning, the commission said Pulse made requests to switch 89 customers but there was evidence at least 17 hadn’t agreed to switch.
Pulse acknowledged switches for the 17 customers weren’t valid. It said the customers originally gave consent to switch but withdrew it after their existing provider “saved” them. “Saves” typically occur when a customer’s provider makes a better offer in order to retain them.
Pulse blamed human error for its failure to record that the 17 customers had withdrawn their consent.
The commission considered Pulse’s representations that the customers had agreed to switch were likely to have breached the Fair Trading Act.
Pulse chief executive Gary Holden said the company was committed to improving the methods it uses to track and record switching activities to “ensure the confusion does not happen in the future”.
The company was also warned for offering low daily rates to customers who couldn’t get them, and for comparing its prices exclusive of GST with competitors’ GST inclusive prices. The commission concluded these practices were also likely to breach the Act.
Pulse previously received compliance advice from the commission in January 2011 about allegations of misleading pricing and unauthorised switching.
In December of the same year, the company entered into an out-of-court settlement with the commission after admitting it misled customers about the amount they had to pay to end their agreements. Pulse agreed to refund nearly $50,000 to affected customers.
In February 2012, the commission issued the company with additional compliance advice about alleged misrepresentations of the benefits to customers of switching suppliers.