Consumer Action is an independent, not-for profit consumer organisation with deep expertise in consumer and consumer credit laws, policy and direct knowledge of people’s experience of modern markets. We work for a just marketplace, where people have power and business plays fair. We make life easier for people experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage in Australia, through financial counselling, legal advice, legal representation, policy work and campaigns. Based in Melbourne, our direct services assist Victorians and our advocacy supports a just market place for all Australians.
Our policy and campaigns team work closely with our advice, casework and engagement teams to deliver on our 2017-21 strategic plan. We identify consumer issues from our casework and other sources, and work to shape a fairer system by leading change to policy, laws and industry practice.
There are many consumer issues that impact Australians. We take a strategic approach to selecting our Policy and Campaigns priorities to ensure that our limited resources are used most effectively. We select issues based on a range of factors, including:
- Concerns emerging from our advice, casework and engagement services;
- Their impact on people experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage;
- Opportunities for timely and significant change;
- Our ability to contribute specialist skills and knowledge;
- Our capacity;
- Difficulty for people to self-advocate when experiencing problems with the product/service;
- Protecting our wins and building on existing campaigns;
- Achieving a balanced mix of priorities; and
- The priorities of other organisations, including the potential for collaboration.
We will be focusing on the following priority areas during 2022-23, while remaining responsive to emerging consumer issues as they arise. Click here to see our Policy and Campaigns Priorities 2022-2023 Booklet
Consumer Action will campaign for better protections for people who purchase faulty or ‘lemon’ cars. Motor vehicles are protected by consumer guarantees, but too often Victorians cannot enforce their consumer rights when sold a lemon car because seeking justice through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is costly, time consuming, and inaccessible.
We will campaign for a specialist, free alternative dispute resolution scheme – a Motor Vehicle Ombudsman – that is:
ACCESSIBLE – so that all Victorians can access justice, no matter their background or circumstances
AFFORDABLE – so that people don’t need to find thousands of dollars for an expert report, which is beyond the means of most, particularly with the rising cost-of-living
TIMELY – so that people can access justice, recover financially and get back on the road in weeks, not years.
Motor vehicles are protected by consumer guarantees, but too often Victorians cannot enforce their consumer rights because seeking justice through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is costly, time consuming, and inaccessible.
Australia’s banks can do much more to stop the plague of scams that are destroying lives and costing the economy more than $2 billion annually.
We will campaign for introduction of mandatory rules that will:
- Require banks to detect, prevent and respond effectively to scams,
- Require the investment in measures that reduce the risk of scam activity (e.g.‘confirmation of payee’ on bank transfer platforms); and
- Require that customers are reimbursed and not blamed for scam losses.
Payday loans and consumer leases
We will campaign for legislative reform to make payday loans (also known as small amount credit contracts) and rent-to-buy products (also known as ‘consumer leases’) safer and affordable.
The problems with payday loans and consumer leases have been well-known for years. In 2016, a government appointed expert panel recommended a number of solutions in the Small Amount Credit Contract (SACC) Review. Their implementation was inexplicably delayed for years by the previous government.
With Australians experiencing ongoing harm from these products and the rising cost-of-living pressures, we will be calling upon the Federal Government to implement these long overdue reforms in 2022.
We will fight for:
- Federal legislative reform that will implement the SACC Review recommendations;
- The removal of consumer lease providers from Centrepay.
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), Wage Advance and other leanding loopholes
We will campaign to reduce the risk of unaffordable credit and financial hardship caused by unregulated credit products.
Together with colleague consumer organisations, we will advocate for implementation of reforms to our national credit laws that will:
- Remove exemptions and capture all consumer credit providers, including BNPL and wage advance providers; and
- Include a strong general anti-avoidance provision.
Save Sorry Business: Youpla/ACBF redress
For decades, the private unregulated funeral insurance company ‘Youpla’ (also known as ACBF) misled and aggressively sold poor-value funeral plans to First Nations peoples. Now this company has collapsed, leaving thousands of people unable to access funeral plans they had paid for to cover the cost of grieving for loved ones through Sorry Business.
This is one of the worst financial scandals we’ve ever seen. Over ten thousand First Nations peoples have lost access to a product they have paid for, and we must act.
Together with First Nations leaders, people and organisations, we will be calling upon the Federal Government to provide:
Fair compensation; and urgent financial assistance,for all policyholders and victims of ACBF/ Youpla so that Sorry Business can be culturally preserved.
Consumer Action will advocate for stronger, directly enforceable consumer protection laws and regulation in telecommunications to ensure Australians have access to fair, affordable and suitable telco products.
We will campaign for:
- Law reform that requires genuine affordability and suitability checks for telco products;
- Improved dispute resolution and hardship procedures to help people get quick and fair resolutions when things go wrong; and
- Increased industry accountability with tough consequences for breaking the rules.
Fairer Energy Services
We will fight to improve energy practices by advocating for:
Expansion of consumer entitlements within the Payment Difficulty Framework (PDF) to improve the treatment of people in financial hardship
The Victorian Government to introduce a Victorian Default Offer (VDO) for gas;
Working with the Essential Services Commission (ESC) and the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) to ensure compliance and enforcement activities and dispute resolution processes are being used to improve retailer conduct.
For new energy products and services, it is important all Victorians can benefit from the new energy market and its products and services.
We will advocate for:
- An updated and robust consumer protection framework for solar and other products
- The Victorian Government to extend its ban on unsolicited selling of solar panels to include telemarketing and all businesses (not just those in the Solar Homes program)
- Improved access to external dispute resolution services through EWOV for new energy businesses, services and products
Affordable Water Services
With rising inflation and cost-of-living, it is important that all essential services remain affordable and accessible for everyone, including people receiving fixed incomes and in vulnerable situations. As with energy, water must remain affordable for Victorians.
We will advocate for:
- Affordable water prices through the Essential Services Commission’s Water Price Review scheduled for 2023
- Updated customer service codes for the water sector that match or exceed protections already in place in the energy sector.