28th August 2012 – Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) encourages the public to throw their support behind a private member’s bill that aims to establish a “Do Not Knock” register.

Introduced to Parliament by Federal MP Steve Georganas, and currently the subject of a House of Representatives’ Social Policy and Legal Affairs committee inquiry, the objective of the bill is to empower consumers to opt out of receiving door-to-door sales visits. Similar to the Do Not Call register that was established in 2006, a Do Not Knock register would prohibit unsolicited marketing approaches to registered properties and provide a framework for enforcement.

“It is just over five years since the Do Not Call register was set up and already over seven and a half million phone numbers are registered with the service,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia. “Based on research that has been done into consumer attitudes towards door-to-door marketing, we would expect the Do Not Knock register to be similarly popular.”

A survey of 1,014 people conducted this year by the Consumer Action Law Centre, found that 85% of participants supported the concept of a Do Not Knock register. Other key findings of the survey were:

·         77% of those surveyed dislike door-to-door sales;
·         only 3% of participants had a generally positive opinion of door-to-door selling;
·         the majority of those surveyed feel misled by in-home sales;
·         56% of those surveyed feel the greatest pressure to purchase when visited at home (in comparison with online sales, purchasing in-store and so on)

“It is those who feel pressure to purchase who most concern us,” says Ms Guthrie. “People certainly find door-to-door selling intrusive and annoying, but beyond the inconvenience of the visits is the fact that for vulnerable members of our society – the elderly, for example, some members of regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, those with a low level of financial literacy or those who do not speak English fluently – the high-pressure sales tactics used can result in real financial hardship.”

Financial Counselling Australia believes that there are systemic problems with door-to-door selling. “I receive a regular flow of feedback from financial counsellors, expressing concern over sales tactics that have been used on some of their clients,” says Ms Guthrie.

“People can feel intimidated by the salespeople and to avoid confrontation will sometimes sign the contract being pushed, just to get them out of their house. There is an argument that door-to-door sales should be prohibited altogether, in the same way as financial products are prohibited from sale under the Corporations Act. At the very least though, a Do Not Knock register for other commercial goods and services would allow people to easily  say ‘no’.”

Government organisations, religious groups and charities would be exempt from the register, but Ms Guthrie acknowledges that the private members bill will likely face strong opposition from some commercial industries that currently run door-to-door sales campaigns. To help counter this self-interest she encourages supporters of the bill to sign the online petition launched by Mr Georganas. The petition can be found at: http://www.communityrun.org/petitions/stop-the-knock-pass-the-do-not-knock-register-bill-2012

“For the sales people, each contract represents a bit of extra commission,” says Ms Guthrie. “But for some consumers, that contract represents financial hardship. We very much hope that this bill is passed and results in some much-needed protection.”

Financial Counselling Australia and the Consumer Action Law Centre are involved in a joint  Do Not Knock campaign. There is more information at www.donotknock.org.au including information on how to download Do Not Knock stickers.

For further comment please contact:
Fiona Guthrie
Executive Director, FCA
Ph: 0402 426 835