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Compensation Scheme of Last Resort

Submission to: Treasury
Joint consumer group submission (led by CHOICE). The submission argues that an effective Compensation Scheme of Last Resort should have broad coverage so that it includes any financial service or product that comes within the jurisdiction of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. It is particularly important that the CSLR cover funeral expense policies managed investment schemes and debt management firms. The compensation cap for the CSLR should be the same as that for AFCA.

Telstra Energy – Application for electricity and gas retail licence

Joint consumer group submission (led by Consumer Action Law Centre) commenting on the fitness of Telstra to be granted a licence to retail electricity and gas. The submission does not oppose the grant of the licence but notes that the culture in the telecommunications industry is not conducive to good customer outcomes and that this could carry over into the utility space. This is a result of inadequate telco regulation that has resulted in ongoing systemic issues, including mis-selling. Telstra needs to make clear commitments that will not see these poor practices in this new market and that will see people who are vulnerable or in hardship, treated fairly.

Treasury Laws Amendment (Measures for Consultation) Bill 2021: Superannuation Information for Family Law Proceedings

Submission to: Treasury
Joint submission, led by Women’s Legal Service Victoria, supporting the passage of legislation that will allow information about superannuation assets to be provided directly to the Family Court by the ATO during property settlements. This will be of significant benefit to women leaving situations of financial abuse and domestic violence, where perpetrators actively seek to hide assets.

Interactive Gambling Amendment (Prohibition on Credit Card Use) Bill 2020

Submission to: Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
While gambling is a legitimate form of entertainment for many Australians, gambling should not be funded by credit. We therefore support a prohibition on the use of credit cards, including via e-wallets, for digital gambling.

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.

The Bankruptcy System and the Impacts of Coronavirus – Discussion Paper

Submission to: Attorney-General’s Department
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) response to a discussion paper from the Federal Attorney-General’s Department. The submission recommends that the default period for bankruptcy should reduce to 1 year (and if so, changes should also be made to the credit reporting system), that charging fees for bankruptcy advice should be banned, the Bankruptcy Act should be amended so that people who later experience further financial hardship can apply to reduce their contributions and that all small business lenders should be members of AFCA. The submission also makes a raft of recommendations in relation to debt agreements, including that the income, debt and asset thresholds should not increase, that the term limit remain the same and that bankrupts be allowed to keep compensation awarded by AFCA. Other recommendations includes that payments from TPD insurance should be protected in bankruptcy, bankrupts should be able to retain accumulated savings, once they have met their income contributions and the fees charged by bankruptcy trustees should be subject to a review as well as greater auditing and enforcement from AFSA. Financial counselling should be available in all Federal Circuit Courts (based on the approach in the Melbourne registry).

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.
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