1st March 2013 – Financial counsellors around Australia are today celebrating a major leap forward for the profession: legal protection of the terms “financial counsellor” and “financial counselling”.

Financial counsellors work in community organisations and assist people in financial difficulty to get back on track. Funded by government, the services provided by a financial counsellor are free, confidential and independent of industry.

This historic reform has been welcomed by every State and Territory financial counselling association in Australia.  These associations set membership and accreditation standards for financial counsellors. Clients coming to see a financial counsellor can be confident that they are dealing with a trained professional, who will act in their interest and no one else’s.

The restriction on the term “financial counsellor” will ensure that commercial providers can no longer hold themselves out as offering the same services, when in fact they do nothing of the sort.  Before the law changed, there were some businesses who said they offered financial counselling as a way of attracting clients.

The financial counselling profession has been very critical of these businesses.  Typically offering debt consolidation loans, Part IX debt agreements, budgeting services or debt negotiation services, these businesses do not explore the full range of options available to consumers in financial difficulty.  Many clients would have better off if they had seen a free and independent financial counsellor.

The legislative restriction is contained in amendments to the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. A breach of the relevant provision attracts a civil penalty of up to 2,000 units.

Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007.