Case note: Do Not Knock Sticker means “go away”

In Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v AGL Sales Pty Ltd [2013] FCA 1030 the Federal Court of Australia decided that a Do Not Knock Sticker (see here) conveyed a request for a door to door salesperson for AGL to leave premises for the purposes of section 75(1) of the Australian Consumer Law.

Section 75 of the Australian Consumer Law requires that a dealer who calls on a person at any premises for the purposing of negotiating an unsolicited consumer agreement must leave the premises immediately on the request of:
(a) the occupier of the premises, or any person acting with the actual or apparent authority of the occupier; or
(b) the person (the prospective consumer) with whom the negotiations are being conducted.

Failure to comply with requirements can lead to maximum penalties of $50,000 for a body corporate and $10,000 for an individual.

The question was whether the sticker was a “request”.

Even though the ‘Do Not Knock Sign’ did not contain an express request to leave the premises Justice Middleton decided that “it was an on-going or continuing request directed to all salespersons who came to the door…. the words “DO NOT KNOCK” were clearly visible on (the) door. A pictorial depiction of a fist knocking with a line through it was also clearly visible. There is no ambiguity to the message conveyed to a salesperson (to whom they were directed) by these words and images – the message was an unambiguous request to leave the premises, without knocking on (the) door”

Justice Middleton concluded that:

” By directing the salesperson not to knock and stating that the salesperson was not welcome on the premises, it conveyed a clear direction that the salesperson was not authorised to carry out the purpose for which he had entered the premises and therefore that he should immediately leave the premises. If the occupier of the premises had made similar oral statements to the salesperson, it would have constituted a “request” for the salesperson to leave. No different result should follow by reason of the fact that the statements were contained in a sign displayed on the front door of the premises. ”

The case has been adjourned for further hearing in relation to penalty.

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