The team at Consumer Action Law Centre are continuing to support people experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage through COVID-19.
- Our free Consumer Legal Advice Service continues to operate, including through our new online chatbot which can receive consumer enquiries at any hour. Our lawyers can be contacted by phone between 10am – 1pm each day.
- Our dedicated Koori Help legal advice line can be contacted by calling 1800 574 457.
- Our Community Worker Advice Service assists financial counsellors, community legal centres and other community professionals. It is available by calling 03 9602 3326 Monday to Friday, 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm.
- Our financial counsellors continue to answer calls as part of the National Debt Helpline, which can be contacted on 1800 007 007.
Like others, many of our team have transitioned to work from home to contribute to safety of our staff and community. As Consumer Action primarily offers telephone and online services, we are fortunately able to continue offering our services.
We know that financial stress and consumer problems are highly likely to increase over the coming months. In the last week, people have contacted us about financial stress caused by COVID-19. Some have lost hours at work; others have lost the ability to generate small business income; and others still have called us from self-isolation. Issues include mortgage stress, struggles with rent, and car repossession.
Consumer Action has therefore joined with more than 40 community organisations to call on banks, telcos, utilities and other essential providers to urgently offer additional support to people struggling with bills and repayments.
We’ve called on industry to implement the following:
- No disconnections from energy or telecommunication services for those that cannot pay – keeping people connected during a crisis is essential.
- A freeze on rent and loan repayments, and debt collection activity, for people in financial hardship.
- Waivers on all penalty and late fees – no-one should pay extra if they’re struggling to pay bills on time.
Many businesses are stepping up to support their customers in financial difficulty. We applaud those that are taking swift action. We’ve also seen some businesses be proactive with offering refunds or credit for those with travel or event cancellations. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have published some helpful information for consumers about their rights when it comes to cancellations. We encourage people to review this information before seeking additional assistance.
We wish all of our community, industry and other colleagues well at this time.
CEO, Consumer Action Law Centre