A coalition of advocacy groups, including Consumer Action Law Centre, CHOICE and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, have come out forcefully stating that customer reimbursement, paid for by industry through a customer’s own bank, must be at the centre of the Federal Government’s proposed new scam laws. The advocates say the new laws must be urgently implemented by the end of this year to stop the billions of dollars that are being lost by Australians every year to scammers.
The group’s call is a core part of their submission -with ten recommendations- in response to the Government’s Scams – Mandatory Industry Codes Consultation Paper (the Paper).
“Industry liability for reimbursement for customers must be at the heart of the scams regulatory framework,” said Consumer Action Law Centre CEO, Stephanie Tonkin. “It’s the only workable approach to effectively disrupt scams and protect consumers from their loss.”
Ms Tonkin said that if the money lost to scams came straight out of the bottom line of the industries who are the gatekeepers of people’s money, personal and online information, industry will be ‘incentivised’ to significantly increase their investment in measures and new technologies to keep the public and their customers safe and secure.
“This is the only realistic way to achieve the level of investment needed to disrupt scams in Australia,” she said.
Consumers need a simplified, single pathway to seek redress after businesses fail to protect them from scams and that complaint pathway should be through the customer’s bank or financial institution where the funds were initially kept or lost.
“The regulatory framework proposed in the Paper is far too complex and will be virtually impossible for consumers to navigate on their own and for industry to deliver on,” Ms Tonkin said.
While the core principles of the Paper are a step in the right direction, they do not meet community expectations of the ‘tough new industry codes’ or a ‘high bar for liability’ that the Government has been promising for the past year and a half.
“I believe the upcoming mandatory laws and codes relating to scams should be modelled around improving consumer outcomes and preventing harm, rather than solely relying on businesses to comply with minimum obligations, which will continue to result in victim blaming and shifting obligations and costs onto consumers who are near-powerless to detect or prevent sophisticated scams from occurring,” Ms Tonkin said.
Read the full submission here.
Quote from CHOICE:
“Digital platforms like Meta and Google simply aren’t doing enough to protect people from scams. These tech giants are exposing people to scams through unverified fraudulent advertisers, and failing to provide appropriate support for victims,” said Director of Campaigns and Communications at CHOICE, Rosie Thomas.
“We welcome the Government’s proposed obligations on digital platforms in relation to scams, but the rules need to be stronger written and enforced by the ACCC and backed by strong penalties to be effective.”
“The current proposal also excludes transaction-based platforms like online marketplaces. This will create confusion for consumers about where their protections start and end, as well as leaving potential loopholes for scammers to exploit. The Government should expand obligations to online marketplaces, including websites like booking.com, which has recently seen a sharp increase in scams in Australia.”
Quote from Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, CEO Andrew Williams:
“As scams grow increasingly sophisticated, large institutions are best placed to resource the fight against fraudulent practices. Legislated industry liability will bring about strong industry action, which is essential to disrupt well-organised scammers. ACCAN is pleased to partner with Consumer Action Law Centre, CHOICE and others in this important submission.”
Media contact: Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Adviser, 0413 299 567, email@example.com