Consumer Action Law Centre https://consumeraction.org.au Mon, 23 May 2022 02:13:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 We’re Hiring! A Policy Officer https://consumeraction.org.au/were-hiring-a-policy-officer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=were-hiring-a-policy-officer Mon, 23 May 2022 02:13:49 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46679 The policy officer will work within the Policy and Campaigns Team to provide policy analysis, research and strategic advice on consumer issues. The successful applicant will get to work with Consumer Action’s leading policy minds, consumer lawyers and financial counsellors to support the policy and campaigns team to build and execute campaigns. This is a

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The policy officer will work within the Policy and Campaigns Team to provide policy analysis, research and strategic advice on consumer issues. The successful applicant will get to work with Consumer Action’s leading policy minds, consumer lawyers and financial counsellors to support the policy and campaigns team to build and execute campaigns.

This is a fixed term role until 30 June 2023.

Specifically, the role will:

  • Develop policy positions, undertake research and prepare briefs, reports and other materials.
  • Support the Director of Policy and CEO in advocacy involving governments, regulators, businesses and others for the implementation of legislative, regulatory and business practice reform.
  • Prepare submissions for government and regulatory processes.
  • Establish and maintain relationships with influential external stakeholders.
  • Represent Consumer Action in external forums and work co-operatively with stakeholders.
  • Collaborate and support the work of other advocacy organisations.
  • Work closely with the legal practice and financial counselling teams to identify and analyse issues arising from their casework that contribute to the development of policy.
  • Develop policy and campaign projects.
  • Ensure public messaging is consistent with Consumer Action policy positions and act as a media spokesperson as required.
  • Support the Director of Policy and Campaigns identify opportunities, assist the development of funding applications to support energy and water policy and project work.

Rewards and Benefits

  • Join a highly engaged and motivated team
  • Option of compressed hours with one RDO per fortnight
  • Superannuation paid on unpaid parental leave
  • 16 weeks parental leave, purchased leave scheme available
  • Comprehensive training and development opportunities
  • Salary range $88,000 to $92,000

The successful applicant will have:

  • A tertiary degree in a relevant discipline, such as law, economics or public policy, law and/or equivalent demonstrated experience in a similar field, together with a demonstrated commitment to social justice and fairness.
  • A highly developed conceptual thinking and analytical skills evidenced by the ability to analyse and articulate underlying causes of vulnerability and disadvantage, to understand and critique relevant legislation and legislative reform options, and to ground both in a consumer policy context.
  • Familiarity with the theory and practice of policy making and research, particularly consumer policy and regulatory issues.
  • Advanced communication written and verbal skills that demonstrate the ability to communicate in clear and interesting ways that understands the target audience
  • A proven capacity to confidently undertake public speaking and represent the organisation through public consultation and media avenues, and effectively use online and other forms of public engagement appropriate to the target audience.
  • Able to design, develop, implement and evaluate complex projects.
  • Demonstrate a highly developed collaborative working style that respects and engages colleagues in a multi-disciplinary centre.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action Law Centre is an award winning campaign-focused organisation with a vision for a just marketplace where people have power and business play fair. As a high impact advocacy organisation they influence change in policy, law and industry practice across a range of consumer issues. The centre’s advocacy is based upon its direct services, provided by dedicated and highly qualified teams of lawyers and financial counsellors who advise, assist and represent vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers across Victoria. The Centre is particularly focused on building a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the communities we serve.

Consumer Action Law Centre is committed to building a diverse workforce. We strongly encourage applications from First Nations people, people with disability, people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, people of all ages, and LGBTIQA+ people. If we can make any adjustments or modifications to standard recruitment processes that will support and enable your application, please contact us at recruitment@consumeraction.org.au

How to Apply

Please send a Covering Letter and Resume to Recruitment@consumeraction.org.au

Applications Close 5pm, 10 June 2022. Read the full Position Description.

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Joint consumer submission on the Independent TIO Review https://consumeraction.org.au/joint-consumer-submission-on-the-independent-tio-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joint-consumer-submission-on-the-independent-tio-review Wed, 18 May 2022 04:08:21 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46672 This is a joint submission from Consumer Action Law Centre, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN),  Financial Counselling Australia and WEstjustice. Our submission draws on feedback and case studies received from residential and small business consumers, consumer advocates, financial counsellors, and community organisations that have experience dealing with TIO matters. Phone and internet complaints

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This is a joint submission from Consumer Action Law Centre, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN),  Financial
Counselling Australia and WEstjustice.

Our submission draws on feedback and case studies received from residential and small business consumers, consumer advocates, financial counsellors, and community organisations that have experience dealing with TIO matters.

Phone and internet complaints can be extremely challenging for consumers to resolve. The technical nature and the potential service-level and financial impact of an issue can create significant inconvenience and distress for consumer complainants. The lack of robust customer service rules placed upon the telecommunications industry means that consumers can spend weeks or months attempting to resolve an issue before it is identified as a complaint by their telecommunications retail service provider (RSP). Phone and internet complaint fatigue is commonplace. This is why access to external dispute resolution (EDR) is vital. Indeed, in the 2020-21 financial year, residential and small business consumers made 119,400 complaints to the TIO.

We support the vital role that the TIO performs when dealing with escalated phone and internet complaints. The TIO’s public reporting on complaints and its commentary on phone and internet consumer issues create a level of transparency surrounding the telecommunications industry’s performance. In recent years, the TIO has made significant investments into improving its processes and engaging with consumers and with its members, for which it should be commended.

Given the TIO’s fundamental role, and the importance of robust EDR arrangements in the telecommunications sector, we have identified areas where we feel the TIO could improve its activities and processes to ensure it consistently exceeds the Australian Government’s Benchmarks for Industry-Based Customer Dispute Resolution.

Read our recommendations in the full submission (PDF).

Joint Consumer Submission to Independent TIO Review

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Review of the Victorian Default Offer Order in Council https://consumeraction.org.au/review-of-the-victorian-default-offer-order-in-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-of-the-victorian-default-offer-order-in-council Fri, 29 Apr 2022 05:26:40 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46555 Consumer Action Law Centre welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Victorian Government’s review of the Order in Council (the Order) that was used to give effect to the Victorian Default Offer (the VDO). We have long supported the recommendation of the Independent Review of the Electricity & Gas Retail Markets in Victoria (known as

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Consumer Action Law Centre welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Victorian Government’s review of the Order in Council (the Order) that was used to give effect to the Victorian Default Offer (the VDO).

We have long supported the recommendation of the Independent Review of the Electricity & Gas Retail Markets in Victoria (known as the Thwaites Review) to establish a basic, unconditional, regulated price for energy and have been involved in the development and setting of the default offer for electricity.

We believe all Victorians have the right to choose not to engage in a retail market which they are unable to exit. For these households, and particularly where people may be experiencing financial hardship, it is critical that people have protected access to a simple and fair price for an essential service.

Overall, we consider that the introduction of the VDO has been effective in achieving the objective of ensuring that Victorians unable or unwilling to engage in the electricity retail market receive a fair price for their electricity service.  This is clear from the continual downward trend in annual bills for customers on standing offers since the introduction of the VDO.

Given this outcome, we are of the view that the introduction of the VDO has been an overall positive for Victorian consumers, and therefore consider the VDO Order in Council can largely be retained as currently written. Despite the success of the implementation of the VDO to date, we consider that there are several improvements which can be made.

As part of this review therefore. we recommend the following changes be made to the Order in Council to further improve consumer outcomes under future VDO determinations.

Read our full submission (PDF).

220428 Submission – Review of VDO Order in Council

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Youpla collapse to fuel ‘trauma and intergenerational debt’ for Indigenous families across Australia https://consumeraction.org.au/youpla-collapse-to-fuel-trauma-and-intergenerational-debt-for-indigenous-families-across-australia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youpla-collapse-to-fuel-trauma-and-intergenerational-debt-for-indigenous-families-across-australia Tue, 26 Apr 2022 19:53:52 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46512 A coalition of over 125 organisations has released an open letter to both major parties calling for urgent action to prevent more than ten thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families from being denied the dignity of a culturally appropriate funeral and grieving period due to the collapse of funeral insurance provider Youpla. For almost

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A coalition of over 125 organisations has released an open letter to both major parties calling for urgent action to prevent more than ten thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families from being denied the dignity of a culturally appropriate funeral and grieving period due to the collapse of funeral insurance provider Youpla.

For almost 30 years, the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund, trading as Youpla, aggressively sold poor value funeral plans to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.

Youpla actively preyed on the culturally significant practice of Sorry Business with many people paying tens of thousands of dollars to the company to ensure their families would be able to afford a dignified and culturally appropriate Sorry Business.

Speaking with one voice today, the Save Sorry Business Coalition called for the next federal
government to take action in two key areas to avoid creating trauma and intergenerational debt for thousands of families and local communities:

1. Urgent assistance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have recently
passed away or who are in the final stages of their lives
2. A plan to safeguard the livelihoods of the remainder of more than ten thousand families
who have collectively lost millions of dollars, including compensation and other responses
to meet the needs of affected families.

Successive federal governments and regulators have been aware of the exploitative practices of Youpla for many years. First Nations and consumer groups warned the Federal Government in 2019 that the fund was going to collapse. Despite the warnings, policymakers chose to watch the fund collapse instead of stepping in.

As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and their communities will be stranded, unable to cover the costs of grieving their loved ones through their Sorry Business traditions. This will be devastating, both financially and in terms of social and cultural impact.

The Save Sorry Business Coalition is led by First Nations people and organisations, supported by charities, financial counselling organisations, community legal centres, consumer advocacy organisations, social services, unions and individual community members seeking justice.

Quotes attributable to Samantha Rudolph, Wurundjeri woman and Aboriginal Policy Officer at Consumer Action Law Centre:
“Community did the right thing preparing for their funeral because they know how important and how expensive Sorry Business can be, but they have been ripped off and misled.
“Governments and regulators have known about this for years, and we made them aware that liquidation was imminent. We are asking for proper redress and equality when it comes to these issues. Government needs to do what is right, as they would for anyone else. Enough is enough.”

Quotes attributable to Lynda Edwards, Wangkumara/Barkandji woman and Financial
Capability Coordinator at Financial Counselling Australia:
“The trauma caused to First Nations People by the collapse of Youpla is a disaster that will leave families and community in severe hardship. There have been numerous opportunities for Government and regulators to step in, but they failed to act.
“We are calling on whoever forms government after the election to set up a compensation scheme to alleviate the hardship and trauma that is already being felt in First Nations communities across Australia. Don’t create another gap.”

Quotes attributable to Daphne Naden, Kuku Yalanji Elder and Director at the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network:
“I didn’t want to leave my daughters with pressure to look for funds to bury me so I took out a plan with this funeral company thinking it was the right thing to do. But this funeral company deliberately went out to exploit Indigenous communities and the government allowed it.
“They should be held accountable and the government needs to support us. I am over 60, I need to be covered so that my daughters are not put in a difficult financial position when I pass.
“We were doing everything we could to protect against the generational debt that this company has now caused.”

Quotes attributable to Mark Holden, Dunghutti man and Solicitor at Mob Strong Debt Help:
“We have been getting thousands of calls from Mob who are very distressed and desperate. There are no legal options here which would help get back their money or even pay for their funeral. It is especially hard talking to Elders who are calling through who have given so much of themselves to community. They deserve a dignified farewell in accordance with Sorry Business protocols.”

Quotes attributable to Veronica Johnson, Financial Counsellor at Broome CIRCLE:
“Broome CIRCLE has been representing Indigenous clients who were targeted by ACBF to
purchase funeral insurance. We have been assisting clients for the last two years in Western
Australia, with a number of cases escalating to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
“We are currently assisting two families who have lost their loved ones in the last two months. These clients had been diligently paying their premiums right up until their passing. They are lying in the morgue, and families are waiting for closure and justice for the wrong that has been done by ACBF.”

ENDS

 

Media Contact:

  • Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Advisor
  • Tel: 0413 299 567 E:Mark@consumeraction.org.au

Background Notes
First Nations policyholders and their families have been left unable to pay for their funerals and sorry business after three of Youpla’s four funds were placed into liquidation on 11 March 2022. It follows the earlier placement of Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund No 2 Pty Ltd (ACBF 2) into liquidation on 2 March 2022.

The Financial Services Royal Commission highlighted that ACBF was misleading First Nations consumers with misleading sales practices, including targeting children and babies with funeral insurance products.

Funeral policies are often of limited value. Payout amounts are often small and there are high rates of cancellations. ACBF historically was not Aboriginal-owned or managed. For decades, it sold funeral insurance and funeral expenses policies marketed solely to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers through unsolicited sales techniques in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It used the trading name ‘Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund’, Aboriginal sales staff and Aboriginal motifs in its marketing to
appeal to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers.

Over the years regulators attempted to challenge the exploitative conduct of ACBF but the company was allowed to continue operating within legal loopholes for well over two decades. At the same time, the Federal Government facilitated the companies’ collection of membership payments through the Centrepay system.

Following a recommendation from the the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, the Australian Government removed the regulatory loophole which enabled funeral expenses products to avoid regulation under the Corporations Act.

Since 2018, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority has issued 178 decisions against ACBF/Youpla, awarding all in favour of the complainants due to misleading or deceptive conduct.

In September 2019, the Consumer Action Law Centre, Financial Rights Legal Centre, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network, and Financial Counselling Australia wrote to the Federal Government warning of the imminent risk of collapse if the Government legislated that funeral expenses policies were required to be licensed.

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Rachna Bowman on the central role of language in financial counselling https://consumeraction.org.au/rachna-bowman-on-the-central-role-of-language-in-financial-counselling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rachna-bowman-on-the-central-role-of-language-in-financial-counselling Thu, 21 Apr 2022 00:57:17 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46519 “I see the demeanour change when speaking to people in their own language,” she says.

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“I see the demeanour change when speaking to people in their own language,” she says.

Rachna Bowman is a Senior Practitioner of Financial Wellbeing working at South East Community Links. She has been assisting Financial Counselling Victoria (FCVic) with a project helping to create language resources for cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

“I see the demeanour change when speaking to people in their own language…” she says. “They can open up more freely about ‘this is what’s happened to me’ and how (they) can come out of it.”

A full transcript of this interview is available on request please contact Media@consumeraction.org.au

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We’re Hiring! A Financial Counsellor https://consumeraction.org.au/were-hiring-a-financial-counsellor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=were-hiring-a-financial-counsellor Wed, 20 Apr 2022 06:14:55 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46507 Are you a Financial Counsellor looking to have real impact in driving systemic change? At Consumer Action Law Centre, our vision is a just marketplace where people have power and business plays fair. If you want to work with a great group of people who help people, and you’re either a qualified financial counsellor, or studying financial counselling, we would

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Are you a Financial Counsellor looking to have real impact in driving systemic change?

At Consumer Action Law Centre, our vision is

a just marketplace where people have power and business plays fair.

If you want to work with a great group of people who help people, and you’re either a qualified financial counsellor, or studying financial counselling, we would love to hear from you.

Our financial counsellors provide telephone based financial counselling services and referrals for individuals seeking information and support with debt and financial issues.

If you’re ready for a challenging and varied role that includes:

  • Providing financial counselling sessions to assist clients to address their situation and make informed decisions;
  • Providing occasional outreach services;
  • Mentoring and providing peer support for trainees, other financial counsellors and new team members;
  • Working to identify legal and policy issues arising from financial counselling, and participating in Consumer Action’s broader policy and advocacy initiatives.

As one of our Senior Financial Counsellors stated recently:

“What I love about my role is the variety, my day is never boring. As well as working on the advice line, I’m regularly involved in training and supporting new staff, working with policy, speaking to external groups about our service and the work of FCs, hosting various VIPs for ‘A Day in the Life’ and I also get to work at the Federal Court every second week as a financial counsellor which I particularly enjoy”

ABOUT YOU

We’re looking for a qualified financial counsellor and member of Financial Counselling Victoria. You’ll need sound technical knowledge of the full range of financial counselling issues, combined with good touch-typing skills and computer literacy. Ideally, you’ll have experience in the use of a telephone based information service.

If you have just qualified as a financial counsellor, experience in the community sector and/or in the provision of legal or welfare information services is highly desirable.

You also have:

  • Outstanding listening and communication skills; you can manage potentially challenging clients in stressful and emotionally charged situations;
  • The practice of thinking quickly and prioritising tasks under pressure;
  • A flexible, pro-active and resilient attitude, including the ability to work under direction;
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate complex information in a practical, accurate and understandable manner;
  • Demonstrated ability to work within a counselling framework and to recognise the way in which other issues may interact with personal financial issues;
  • A demonstrated interest in and commitment to social justice, including awareness of issues such as homelessness, mental health, family violence, disability, drug and alcohol problems and criminal activity.

This is a fixed-term position until 30 June 2023.

Full-time or part-time (3 or more days per week) may be considered.

Positions will ultimately be based at our office in Melbourne CBD, with interim working from home arrangements in place for all staff until further notice.

The salary range offered is between $76,000 – $82,000 (Financial Counsellor) and up to $92,000 for an experienced Senior Financial Counsellor, commensurate with experience, plus superannuation.  Consumer Action Law Centre offers salary packaging, therefore depending upon personal financial circumstances the value of the salary may be equivalent to up to approximately $5,000 – $8,000 higher.

For more information, refer to the position description.

 

Please submit your application by 5 pm Monday 9 May 2022 to:

People and Culture Manager

Email: recruitment@consumeraction.org.au

 

 

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Victorian Default Offer electricity tariffs 2022-23 https://consumeraction.org.au/victorian-default-offer-electricity-tariffs-2022-23/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=victorian-default-offer-electricity-tariffs-2022-23 Thu, 14 Apr 2022 01:50:14 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46502 Consumer Action Law Centre (Consumer Action) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Essential Services Commission’s (the ESC) Draft Decision for Victorian Default Offer (the VDO) tariffs to apply for the period 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023 (the draft decision). We note that the ESC has essentially used the same approach in this

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Consumer Action Law Centre (Consumer Action) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Essential Services Commission’s (the ESC) Draft Decision for Victorian Default Offer (the VDO) tariffs to apply for the period 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023 (the draft decision).

We note that the ESC has essentially used the same approach in this draft decision as they did in their 1 January 2022 VDO price determination. Given our overall support for the 2022 VDO price determination, we are also largely supportive of the 2022-23 draft decision.

However, we question the timing of the changed methodology that has resulted in higher wholesale costs in this decision, particularly when savings from cheaper wholesale prices remain to be passed on to households. Furthermore, in line with previous submissions we urge the ESC to review benchmark charges to households for retail operations, consumer acquisition and retention costs and retail margins, to ensure that the VDO continues to meet the objective of providing, “… a simple, trusted and reasonably priced electricity option that safeguards consumers unable or unwilling to engage in the electricity market.”

That the VDO remain a ‘reasonably priced electricity option’ is particularly pressing at this time, coming amidst escalating cost of living pressures and the challenges of post-pandemic recovery.

While the one percent cost rise in this determination is small, for consumers in financial difficulty any price rise is significant. It is therefore important that benchmarks are subject to ongoing interrogation to ensure costs reflect efficient retail operations.

More detailed comments on these points, as well as other aspects of the draft decision, are provided below.

Read the full submission (PDF).

220408 Submission – 2022-23 VDO DD

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ASIC litigation against fictitious high-cost ‘leases’ protects against exploitation https://consumeraction.org.au/asic-litigation-against-fictitious-high-cost-leases-protects-against-exploitation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asic-litigation-against-fictitious-high-cost-leases-protects-against-exploitation Tue, 12 Apr 2022 04:41:52 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46481 Consumer Action has welcomed the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) announcement that it has sued Rent4Keeps and Layaway Depot for breaches of the National Credit Code involving high cost ‘lease’ arrangements. “We regularly hear from people who have been signed up to excessively expensive and misleading ‘consumer lease’ arrangements that require them to pay

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Consumer Action has welcomed the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) announcement that it has sued Rent4Keeps and Layaway Depot for breaches of the National Credit Code involving high cost ‘lease’ arrangements.

“We regularly hear from people who have been signed up to excessively expensive and misleading ‘consumer lease’ arrangements that require them to pay many times more than the value of the goods. Some are even designed so fees continue indefinitely”, said Gerard Brody, CEO Consumer Action Law Centre.

Consumer Action has previously taken legal action against Rent4Keeps and supports the action  ASIC is taking.

ASIC alleges that the companies entered numerous arrangements fictitiously structured to avoid key consumer protections in the National Credit Code, including a 48% per annum cost cap limit that applies to credit contracts.

Despite the name of their company suggesting otherwise, consumers are not actually entitled to keep products obtained from Rent4Keeps franchises at the end of a ‘lease’ contract. Instead, the contracts include a term that allow Rent4Keeps to gift the products to someone else. ASIC alleges that this contractual term is a device that avoids characterising the contracts as a credit contract, thereby avoiding the 48% annual cost cap.

“Consumer leases are a fictitious lending model designed to avoid important consumer protections that apply to other credit products,” said Mr Brody.

ASIC’s litigation underscores the pressing need for a 48% per annum cost cap to be introduced to apply to consumer leases, a change the Coalition Government committed to introduce in 2016, following recommendations by an independent review of small amount credit contract laws.

“The government has known about the problems with the consumer lease industry for over six years, yet has failed to act upon the solution it accepted from its own expert review of these laws back in 2016. A failure to introduce the recommended cost cap for consumer leases has allowed businesses like Rent4Keeps to charge excessive fees to people at risk of financial hardship,” said Mr Brody.

The harm caused by consumer leases can also be amplified when payment for these arrangements are debited via Centrepay, a system that allows the debtor to take funds from a person’s Centrelink payment before it even hits their bank account.

“It is inexplicable that consumer lease providers can access payments through the Centrepay system, when these credit contracts can (and often are) the most expensive form of regulated credit available in Australia. We call upon the government to urgently fix this issue as and remove consumer lease providers’ access to Centrepay.”

Read here about previously legal action Consumer Action has taken against Rent4Keeps:

ENDS

 

Media Contact:

  • Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Advisor
  • Tel: 0413 299 567 E:Mark@consumeraction.org.au

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Water is an essential service and must remain affordable for everyone https://consumeraction.org.au/water-is-an-essential-service-and-must-remain-affordable-for-everyone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-is-an-essential-service-and-must-remain-affordable-for-everyone Mon, 11 Apr 2022 23:51:50 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46474 Consumer Action Law Centre has written to the Chairs and Managing Directors of the Victorian water corporations about the impending 2023 Water Price Review, urging them to prioritise affordability so that all Victorians can continue to exercise their fundamental right to water. “All Victorians have the right to enjoy access to safe, reliable water supplies,

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Consumer Action Law Centre has written to the Chairs and Managing Directors of the Victorian water corporations about the impending 2023 Water Price Review, urging them to prioritise affordability so that all Victorians can continue to exercise their fundamental right to water.

“All Victorians have the right to enjoy access to safe, reliable water supplies, so that they can live healthy and dignified lives,” said Gerard Brody, CEO Consumer Action.

“In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, too many of the Victorians we speak to are struggling to pay their utility bills, and while water prices have remained steady or come down slightly over recent years, there remain people in the community facing difficulty paying their bills.

“Any increases in water prices will exacerbate financial hardship for these Victorians, increasing the challenge they face in meeting the cost of their day-to-day expenses,” Mr Brody said.

Victoria’s water businesses have been generally proactive in engaging with their customer base and the community as part of the development of pricing plans. However, Mr Brody said there are some fundamentals that water businesses must adopt.

Water companies should maintain and expand assistance for people experiencing vulnerability and hardship so that people having difficulty paying their bills receive they support they need. Businesses should also remove or address any cross-subsidies that disadvantage residential consumers.

“It’s only reasonable that industry users should be paying the full cost of their water use and not be subsidised by households, and any deviation from this must be made explicit, and justified, in businesses’ price submissions,” Mr Brody said.

Significant investments, such as the roll-out of digital metering, must proceed only where the benefits to consumers have been robustly demonstrated. Furthermore, demand forecasts should be based on recent experience – the pandemic has meant that population growth has slowed throughout much of Victoria, and planned capital expenditure needs to be reconsidered.

“Where price rises are unavoidable, any cost increase must be accompanied by a strategy to avoid bill shock. Steep price rises, especially over a short time, will have negative impacts on Victorians on low incomes.” Mr Brody said.

ENDS

A copy of the Open Letter can be found here

 

Media Contact:

  • Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Advisor
  • Tel: 0413 299 567 E:Mark@consumeraction.org.au

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Victorian Property Market Review https://consumeraction.org.au/victorian-property-market-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=victorian-property-market-review Mon, 11 Apr 2022 01:18:51 +0000 https://consumeraction.org.au/?p=46499 Consumer Action has provided a submission to the Victorian Property Market Review. The review is an important opportunity to improve property market laws to support Victorians to have fairer and easier access to the housing market. Our submission makes a range of recommendations, including: – improving to property market information and under-quoting reforms; – enhancing

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Consumer Action has provided a submission to the Victorian Property Market Review. The review is an important opportunity to improve property market laws to support Victorians to have fairer and easier access to the housing market.

Our submission makes a range of recommendations, including:

– improving to property market information and under-quoting reforms;
– enhancing property information, including consumer-testing disclosure information;
– regulating property investment advice and spruikers;
– introducing an external dispute resolution scheme to resolve disputes between consumers and property market professionals; and
– maintaining existing safeguards relating to rent-to-buy as an important measure to ensure market innovations aimed at improving affordability are safe.

Read the full submission (PDF).

220406 Vic Property Market Review submission

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