There’s no denying that 2019 was a dynamic one for Consumer Action, bringing a wave of change for consumer rights in Australia. You can find out more about what we’ve been up to this past year in our Impact Report 2018/19, but here’s a quick snapshot on the highlights.
The Policy and Campaigns arm of our Centre continued their work 0n many high-profile projects and submissions. In Victoria’s energy market, ongoing work paid off when the State Government introduced a default offer to help curb energy prices.
Australia wide, a number of significant steps were made in the name of consumer rights. The Federal Government introduced the first omnibus bill in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission, which will help address long-standing problems with unfair insurance contracts, funeral expenses policies and mortgage broking. We expect this to be introduced when parliament sits in February next year.
We welcomed a ban on unsolicited selling in the insurance sector, and ASIC exercising its product intervention powers against harmful payday lender Cigno. Most recently, they saw Labor and the Centre Alliance unite to co-sponsor a bill on small amount credit contracts (SACC) which was introduced in the Senate and has now been referred to committee for submissions in the new year.
The Legal Services team helped lead the charge toward positive policy outcomes through their casework and strategic litigation. In addition to assisting people on the legal advice line, their casework helped demonstrate important systemic issues like the dangers of so-called debt management firms and the hardships caused for many who repay expensive consumer leases through Centrepay.
The Financial Counselling team continued their important work serving the lion’s share of Victoria’s callers to the National Debt Helpline. They demonstrated how important free financial counselling is to the community through their work with Financial Counselling Australia’s ‘Day in the Life’ program, introducing politicians and consumer advocates alike to this vital service. The Service Development and Partnerships team facilitated a series of training workshops that enabled the financial counsellors to share their knowledge with budding financial counsellors through a series of training workshops.
We look forward to continuing to advocate for consumer rights in 2020.