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Review of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority

Submission to: Treasury
Joint consumer group submission (led by Consumer Action) on the review of the operation of AFCA since its establishment. Consumer groups strongly support AFCA as providing access to justice for people in dispute with financial services providers. AFCA is meeting its statutory objectives to be fair, efficient, timely and independent.

Licensing Debt Management Firms: Exposure Draft Regulations

Joint consumer group submission (led by Consumer Action Law Centre) into proposed laws that will require some debt management firms (DMFs) to hold an Australian Credit Licence. The submission supports this proposal but sets out why are more robust licensing and conduct regime is needed to adequately prevent consumer harm. This would include a requirement that all DMFs act in the customer’s best interests, a ban on upfront fees, a ban on DMFs taking a legal charge over a client’s assets to secure their fees, and mandatory signposting to free services such as financial counselling as other options.

Review of the ePayments Code

Submission to: ASIC
Submission from the Consumers Federation of Australia (endorsed by FCA and a number of other consumer organisations) in relation to the ePayments Code. The submission raises concerns about screen scraping, that the code does not address scams and inadequate checks from ADIs to reduce mistaken payments. It is positive that the code will allow for consumer complaints to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

Bankruptcy Regulations 2021 Exposure Draft

Submission to: Attorney-General’s Department
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) in response to proposed changes to the bankruptcy regulations. The submission argues that the proposed modernisation of the list of household property available for the payment of debts does not in fact represent modern lifestyles. Trustees in bankruptcy should not be taking household items from debtors and their families unless those items are uniquely valuable, such as antiques. Alternatively, if the Government does not accept this, the proposed list needs to expand to home entertainment equipment, sufficient computing devices for all members of the household and one mobile phone for each household member. Thresholds for tools of trade and motor vehicles should be set at reasonable values. Alternatively, they should be increased to $5,000 for tools of trade and $15,000 for motor vehicles (both should be indexed). The submission also makes recommendations about the duration of listings on the NPII and the regulation of informal debt agreements.

Privacy Act Review, Issues Paper

Submission to: Attorney-General’s Department
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) into the Privacy Act. The submission’s recommendations include a right to privacy, overhaul of notification and consent processes, higher privacy standards, a right to erasure, a statutory tort for breaches of privacy and specific protections for children.

Fair Trading (Small Amount Credit Contracts and Consumer Leases) Amendment Bill 2020 (SA)

Submission to: Commissioner, Consumer and Business Services, SA
This is the joint submission from the Stop The Debt Trap Alliance a coalition of consumer advocacy organisations advocating for adequate regulation of payday loans and consumer leases. This submission supports the legislation introduced to the SA Parliament by the Attorney-General, the Hon Vicki Chapman that will introduce cost caps on both products. The legislation is based on that originally planned by the Federal Government in 2017, but not introduced. Instead the Federal Government is proposing a watered down version of reforms (as announced on 25th September 2020). We urge the SA Parliament to pass this bill.

Modernising the TIO Terms of Reference – Supplementary Submission

Submission to: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
This is the joint consumer group submission about the TIO’s terms of reference, led by WEstJustice. This supplementary submission focuses on the important role the TIO can play in relation to addressing systemic issues.

Review of the Bankruptcy Threshold for Creditor’s Petitions

Submission to: Attorney-General’s Department
Joint submission from Financial Rights Legal Centre, Consumer Action Law Centre and FCA setting out why the bankruptcy threshold should be increased to $50,000. It is currently $5,000. This means that people can unfairly lose their homes over very small debts and that bankruptcy is inappropriately used as a debt collection tool.

ASIC Consultation Paper 330 – Using the Product Intervention Power re Continuing Credit Contracts

Submission to: ASIC
Joint submission from FCA and the State and Territory financial counselling associations supporting ASIC’s proposed use of its product intervention power to impose a total cost cap on the use by entities of the continuing credit exemption in the national credit laws. The submission includes a number of case studies documenting the significant harm caused by the use of this model by BHF Solutions and its associate Cigno.

Inquiry into food pricing and food security in remote Indigenous communities

Submission to: Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
Joint consumer group submission (with CHOICE, ICAN and CCLSWA) documenting the high prices paid by First Nations people living in remote communities. The submission recommends that the Government develop an affordable pricing policy for remote communities, that remote stores are monitored for quality and quantity of goods as well as prices, and that income support payments are increased for people in these areas, recognising the higher cost of living.

Australian Banking Association Application for ACCC Authorisation re Financial Relief Programs April 2020

Submission to: ACCC
Joint consumer group submission (led by the Consumers Federation of Australia) in response to an application by the Australian Banking Association and its member banks, for authorisation by the ACCC for banks to agree on the minimum standards for consumer financial relief programs and to promote customers’ access to banking services in an environment where social distancing is in place. We support both of these applications. In relation to financial relief we suggest that the ACCC’s final authorisation require that banks consult with consumer groups about their content and that there be public reporting about the outcomes of these programs.
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