On the eve of a visit to Port Stephens during a week-long program of Fair Trading education seminars and compliance checks, Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts is warning members of the Aboriginal community to avoid cold callers spruiking contracts for telecommunications and other goods.
Minister Roberts said local Aboriginal groups in the region had today advised Fair Trading that many community members were suffering greatly as a result of signing up to expensive contracts promoted by salespeople cold calling via door knocking and over the phone.
“People are getting hooked into a variety of contracts with the promise of interest free periods and a clear lack of proper information about the real and long term costs,” he said.
Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council member, Jackie Henderson, said local community members suffered disadvantage in not knowing or understanding contract terms.
“Our people have a tendency to get locked into contracts that cause hardship and impact badly on their living expenses and family relationships,” she said. “When they can’t meet payments, people often get caught in damaging legal processes and have property re-possessed, with all the consequent impacts that has on families.
“Terms and conditions are in legal jargon and not in plain English. The people selling these products tell our community members what they want to hear and not what they really need to know and understand.”
Minister Roberts said door-knockers and telemarketers have historically deliberately targeted Indigenous communities with high-pressure, misleading and confusing sales tactics.
“Door-knockers and telemarketers are subject to national laws governing unsolicited consumer agreements that give consumers a ten-day ‘cooling off’ period in which the seller can’t demand payment and the consumer can change their mind,” he said.
“Door-to-door sellers must clearly explain upfront the purpose of their visit and provide identification,” he said. “Sellers must leave or hang up immediately if that is the consumer’s wish and they are not allowed to contact the consumer again for at least 30 days.
“Rules about unconscionable conduct also apply in these circumstances – when traders fail to properly disclose key contractual terms or use high pressure tactics.”
Aboriginal people experiencing problems as a result of signing contracts should contact NSW Fair Trading by calling 13 32 20 or lodge complaints online at the Fair Trading website or at any Fair Trading Centre. Fair Trading has dedicated Aboriginal customer service officers to help resolve disputes.
For more information about issues relating to telecommunications and other Indigenous consumer protection information visit www.nics.org.au or contact the nearest Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman at www.tio.com.au
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